Bridge is out stop Send wine stop

House Sitters diary entry #53: It is the rainy season. Last night an incredibly powerful thunder and lightning storm dealt to a transformer and messed with power. This morning had some electricity coming in, but not enough to pump water through the system.  I must be judicious about which appliances I use. If I put the kettle on to boil the lights flash like a very budget homemade disco.

Grateful for a backup battery maintaining wifi.  I can work. If not, I get penalised (US $10 for every missed lesson)

Went to SuperMarket to get supplies including 12 litres of emergency water.  Luckily, I am mostly unfamiliar with the locals as I am somewhat… unwashed. No shower. No toilet.IMG_20180629_141943

UPDATE: Hooray! I found a tap in the garden that was routed to a different well. I can haul buckets to flush the toilet (gracias a Dios) and shower sailor-style.

SITREP: status- survivable, mostly comfortable.

My Pretty Turquoise Shower

 

 

House sitters diary entry #54:                                        The power situation remains the same. Between power surges and turning off all unnecessary breakers – I got enough water pumped through the system to have a shower. A very bracing, icy cold shower but I have clean hair! Hygiene attended to I can face the public again.  

Taking a  bus into town 40 minutes away the river is the highest I’ve even seen it. The bridge is covered by surging coffee coloured water. Most vehicles can’t pass. The bus made it through, probably by virtue of creating a massive bow-wave, as the water was up above the top of the wheels.  

 

Taken out of the (dirty) bus window. You can see where the edge of the road is and the water pouring off.

Returning home from town in the afternoon – the entire road has been blocked by men with guns. NOONE is getting across the bridge. Instead of easing during the day, the river level has risen taking out a local roadside restaurant and blocking 2 roads. I must get back home to the dogs. I want to take photos while I figure out what to do. The guard does not want to let me pass -I assure him… I am pretty desperate, but not loco, I will not be diving into the rushing floodwaters! There is another way back to the ranch, it is an hour long diversion and I will have to get back to town to figure out a way there. I begin walking the long, hot 7km. Luckily, a bus comes past. I don’t know where it’s going but figure we have to end up back in town. Bus heads off the main road and winds around the countryside. Beautiful cacti, wooden stick fences, lots of mud. Made it back to town and a bar I know. I need somewhere to wait as I tried to find someone to drive me. I ring 3 drivers before one says he can pick me up… but it won’t be for an hour. Cue -medicinal Mezcal and beer.  3 hours later I am back home to a pair of very happy dogs.

SITREP: Home safe, clean. Water – not hot, but running. Considering planting potatoes.

 

The bridge I usually cross is completely submerged (left)and the road to the next town is also under water (right)

On the left is a roadside taco stand in the morning… on the right is the same stand under about a 1.5m of floodwater

 

House sitters diary entry #55:

Another night of window-rattling thunder and 3 hours sitting on the floor with a dog under each arm. This morning there seems to be more power coming in and I can do a load of laundry and turn the freezers back on.  I cook lunch for the worker Jose-Manuel as he has been stuck here for 2 days without food from home and there is only one tiny shop with scant provisions -confectionary and soda etc. It is very quiet with big trucks and buses unable to use the road. The worker goes to check the bridge in the afternoon. There is no change. We siphon some petrol from an emergency stash into his truck so he can make it the long way home.  I will not be attending Tinder date.

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UPDATE: I think it’s gonna be a while. Went down to check water level. Bridge has washed away. 

 

 

 

SITREP: Possible emergency situation arising. Wine levels dangerously low, approaching critical. 

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On the bright side – new play area!

A Magical Mystery Tour: The Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

 

Last weekend I checked an item off my Adventure Wish List, experiencing one of nature’s most mysterious and magical phenomena, visiting the summer sanctuary of hundreds of thousands of Monarch Butterflies.

I also made a short video called Monarch Butterfly Magic you can see it on my youtube channel.

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Leaving San Miguel de Allende and driving for about 4 hours high into the western Sierra Madre mountains, we arrive at the Rosalia Sanctuary.  Jumping out of the van, the smell of fir trees is strong in the air.  The air is so clear, it’s a beautiful sunny day. This is a good sign our guide tells us, as it means the butterflies will be active. At the entrance we rent horses for a 20-minute ride further up the mountain. Not only is it hella-steep and dusty, but every extra peso is needed by the locals reliant on tourists visiting the Monarchs for just five months of the year.

 

Off the horses, so they don’t damage any of the butterfly habitat, and it’s an easy 10-minute walk into the forest before we start seeing butterflies and it doesn’t take long to be surrounded.  There are sooooooo many butterflies gathered together – you can actually HEAR their wings as they opening and closing! Tap a finger into the palm of your other hand and then imagine that sound multiplied by thousands!

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I’ve always loved butterflies, particularly because my mum told me part of the reason she chose my name was because it ‘means’ butterfly (there’s a genus called Vanessa).  I always think of her when one dances into view.  Here in Mexico, it’s believed the Monarch butterflies contain the spirits of the departed because they arrive in Mexico on November the first  – Dia de Los Muertos or Day of the Dead.

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Mother Nature’s Jewellery

The Mystery of the Migration

Monarch butterflies are special – I mean not only do they have freaking GOLD on their chrysalises (or chrysalides – says google) BUT even more incredible is the annual migration from Canada to Mexico.

As the days grow shorter in the north, and the temperature begins to drop, a special generation is born of Monarch butterflies is born.  A generation with new abilities. A generation with a mission in life.  Hormonal changes prevent sexual maturity and the urge to reproduce and give these butterflies ‘Super Butterfly’ abilities enabling them to store energy and fly long distances.

These Super Butterflies, despite weighing less than a gram, will end up flying over 3000 kilometres battling buffeting wind, pelting rain and trying to avoid predators. The trip can take up to 2 months. Monarchs are the only insects to migrate such a vast distance. The normal lifespan of a Monarch is 2-6 weeks, but if they survive their arduous task the Super Butterflies will end up living 6-9 MONTHS!  Once they finally get to Mexico the butterflies take a well-deserved break until Spring-Fever hits  in March…and they get on with the sexing! After all that effort, the poor males usually die. The fertilized females then begin the journey north stopping in the southern states of the U.S, to lay their eggs then they too, die. The Super Butterflies have completed their mission. The eggs will hatch, the caterpillars will become butterflies and then lay eggs of their own. It will take multiple generations to eventually reach the original starting point in Canada. The butterflies that eventually make it there have never been there before. And it won’t be them, or their offspring, or their offspring’s offspring that will begin the migration cycle back to Mexico.

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They weigh less than a gram individually but en masse these butterlies can weigh down branches!

For years scientists have been baffled by the phenomenon. How do such fragile insects survive such a difficult journey and how do they know where to go? They believe the butterflies have some sort of internal compass that directs them using the sun and the time of the day. But what about the days when it’s not sunny? Even if they can direct themselves, how do they find the exact same trees down to a few square kilometres, when they’ve never been before?

 

 

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Our small group is undisturbed by other tourists. We walk slowly. Often in silence. standing still ’til the Monarchs fly closer and closer. Looking up into the cloudless sky, they flutter like sunlit orange confetti.

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This tour was so worth it and a total bonus was meeting a bunch of awesome people too! If you’re in San Miguel de Allende and want to do this tour, I’d highly recommend Pablo Carrasco of Permacultours. He had a small stand inside Mercado Sano.

 

 

January Sucked, Welcome February 2018

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted and that’s ‘cos A) Been busy bro! In December I travelled from San Miguel de Allende to Playa Del Carmen with 2 pet sits over Christmas.

 

and B) kinda got a bit disillusioned with the Blogging-and-what’s-it-for thing.

I’ve been looking for a side hustle for the last little while and gathering information about remote work/earning potential. The more I started learning about social media monetizing opportunities – particularly Instagram and the manipulated algorithms that make accounts popular (and therefore able to earn $$$), the more put off I became. The idea that people create ‘pods’ and pledge to ‘like’ each others’ posts at the same time on a certain day – REGARDLESS of the content seems superficial and seriously cynical. More power to the people earning good coin doing this, but it’s not for me.  There are definitely digital remote opportunities out there that AREN’T superficial, or scammy (hello Multi-Level Marketing) I just haven’t found mine yet and this blog is not gonna be it.

So Whoohoooo 2018! NEW YEAR! Gonna be awesome I thought…then January.

***Sorry aunties*** BUT  F*@CK January!

A Litany of Bad Luck and Losses: 

NZ$2000 not really LOST but unexpectedly had to pay out for dental work

US$500 skimmed from my credit card – which I alerted the bank to less than 12 hours after it happened.

NZ$40 charged by ASB bank to courier a credit card to replace the skimmed one. The charges have been reversed after an email from me.

US$40 lost in commission at money exchange at airport (cashflow machines from NOW ON)

NZ$1000 (potentially more) lost after a video project (6 months in the works) falling over

US$36 lost because the volcano was erupting in Guatemala and internet failed during one of my online classes, resulting in a loss of a month’s bonus. DESPITE the fact that I bought a Guatemalan sim card and internet credit to avoid this … the credit ran out the night before my classes which were on my last day in the country.

AAAAAAAAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!

BUT NOW it’s FANTASTIC, FABULOUS, FINANCIALLY FECUND FEBRUARY and I’m turning my $$$ luck around! 

ALSO though financially STINK there were some other wonderful things that happened in January. I returned to Guatemala for the second time to visit the kids at the orphanage where I lived for a year.  When they saw me they came running outside for hugs en masse. #BestFeelsEver.

I took some cardboard and stickers and other bits and pieces to glue and made greeting cards with the girls. As I exhaustedly congratulated myself on keeping six kids occupied without too much pinching, punching, snatching and bickering for at least a couple of hours… I checked the time. It had been 40 minutes.

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Currently, I’m in Puebla.  Hanging out with my buddy Mickey who I met when I first came here in September.  Continue reading “January Sucked, Welcome February 2018”

San Miguel de Allende

I’m thoroughly enjoying life here in San Miguel de Allende where I’ve been living for the last month, and where I’ll be for the next 5-6 weeks.  San Miguel (a.k.a. SMA a.k.a San Mike) has been voted the best city in the world to travel to (according to some people in some magazine) I feel so lucky I had little to no expectations before I came here.  Whenever I mentioned I was travelling to San Miguel, my Mexican friends would all gush about how awesome it was, but I really had no idea what they meant.  I arrived and walked down the hill to see this…

The gorgeous PINK church in the main plaza – like some fairytale castle!

It’s a beautiful town, very popular with ex-pats North Americans in particular (It’s only about a 7-hour drive to the border).  The locals, ex-pats and other tourists all seem really hospitable. I’ve had quite a few random conversations with strangers on the street – which is always a great trait in a place!

I’ve discovered a tiny bar with skilled and friendly bartenders (my favourite!), met some people at an English/Spanish language exchange in a café and to an art exhibition where instead of free wine, they served free shots of Mezcal. Art’sh never looked sho amaaaashing. I’ve finally started salsa lessons which I’m loving, although I haven’t been brave enough to go out dancing in public yet.

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The road leading to the main road where I catch the bus

The place I’m staying is a little out of town (20minutes drive). It’s a bit of a pain to get in and out of town but I’m slowly figuring out the buses. .here is gorgeous cactus EVERYWHERE

 

 

 

The property is in the countryside so it’s incredibly peaceful. I’m not sure how big it is but there’s an external fence then grapevines, pepper trees, olive trees and several fruit trees. There are also hedges of Lavender and Rosemary all around. There is another walled enclosure with the most gorgeous old wooden door. It looks like it belongs at the entrance to a castle.

Inside are the main house, the little casita where I stay and the pool and the pizza oven (yes, pool AND pizza oven). This place has many, many features of my dream home!

But the very best part of this property is these two. Delilah, a 10mnth old German Shepherd (sitting) and Samson, a four-year-old Belgian Shepherd.

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If I’m home in the evening, I pour a glass of wine and take the dogs for a wander around the boundary.

#toughlife #stress #WORKING9to5… NOT.

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Going with the Flow in Mexico

A very belated update on what’s happening after a month and a half in Mexico.

What I’m loving:

*Washing machines to wash clothes – no more handwashing!

*Flushing toilet paper down the toilet (mostly, still need to chuck it in the bucket beside the loo in some places). UGH. It’s not so bad if it’s just you using the toilet but when it’s not… soooo not a fan of emptying those bins either.

*Cool temperatures. I love the heat – when I’m by a pool or the ocean. The unrelenting sweaty, heat in León was fabulous for my skin, but boy oh boy was it exhausting.  Just contemplating walking 15 minutes into town involved a psychological gee-up.

*Quiet. Guatemala and Nicaragua are NOISY. For me this is part of the crazy, sometimes overwhelming but oh so gloriously, rich sensory experience of these countries. But Oh SUCH SWEET relief to be able to just be… in… quiet. Without fireworks, crazy loud music (CRAZY LOUD like feeling-the-bass-vibrate-through-your-body-in-your-room-across-the-road LOUD) Big truck engines, noisy motobikes, People yelling at the tops of their voices from first light in the morning ’til well after dark.

*Fancy shops. I don’t think I’m a big consumer, especially when travelling (the last new-to-me piece of clothing was a $4 tee-shirt from someone’s front room in León 3 months ago) but it is refreshing to see fashion again! Clean, new stuff, presented stylishly. After nearly 2 years in some pretty poverty stricken places, my thirsty eyes are enjoying the pretty shiny things.

What am I actually doing? I’m just not ready to return to NZ yet, so I’m trying to figure out a way to stay here, keep learning Spanish, but without spending too much money. That is about the extent of my plans and goals right now.

So, I’m still teaching English online in the mornings, other online classes on a casual basis during the day. I’m house sitting when I have bookings and when I don’t, I’m doing Workaway (working 4-5 hours a day in exchange for accomodation.) I have a house sitting gigs up until February… beyond that, who knows!!!

Before I left Nicaragua, I stumbled upon a housesitting site on FB. I wrote a quick post detailing my availability and destination plans (=anytime,  anywhere in Mexico) with some photos of me and my fur buddies… organized some references and got replies!  First up, was a retired Canadian couple living in Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. We’d chatted a few times via Facebook messenger, but I really had no idea what to expect. I was a little bit nervous as I would be staying the first night with them in their house before left on their trip. I didn’t need to worry- they picked me up from the airport and even took me out for dinner on my first night!  It was a bit lonely because the house was far from the main tourist area and the hostels where a solo traveller might normally meet people. It was great being in a real local area though, and I still managed to make some friends.

                                 If you don’t know anyone make friends with the waiters…

 

“It felt a bit like I was living in an episode of Black Mirror.”

Next I travelled to Puebla and a whole new world. I stayed in a very new, very fancy, very secure subdivision called Lomas de Angelopolis.  This place is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. There is a shopping centre with bars and restaurants that could easily compete with any upmarket venue I’ve seen in London or Sydney or Auckland. There are security booths and traffic barrier arms scattered throughout; at the entrance to the whole suburb and at the entrance to all the individual housing areas. All visitors (including taxis and food delivery people) need to hand over their I.D. Residents have electronic access in their cars or swipe cards.   It felt a bit like I was living in an episode of Black Mirror. The different housing areas are called Clusters.  All the houses are white and rectangular (little boxes little boxes and they all look just the same)

 

The curbsides and numerous parks are manicured and maintained to perfection with hedges of divine smelling jasmine. They’re beautiful but eerily empty. I think the most contact I had with people was with the security guards at the entrance of my cluster when I had to get in and out everyday.

 

 

In Lomas de Angelopolis I looked after a miniature doberman pinscher called Mickey. Again, this place was 30 minutes taxi from the centre of town, so Mickey was my main man. We went for some good walks hanging out every day – I think I only left him at home twice in the three weeks I stayed.   Here’s a little Micky Montage:

For the last 2 weeks I’ve been doing a Workaway, staying in a different part of Puebla and helping a woman out with her Air BnB houses. Next I’m off up North in a few days. Heading to a house-sit in San Miguel de Allende, via the capital for a quick check-in.