Archive | October, 2013

Xcalak – Mexican Frontier

27 Oct

This week the Tortas headed out for a two-night visit to the Caribbean coast. We have been living in Bacalar, Mexico almost two months and not done any, “sight seeing” choosing to spend our time acclimating to our new home.

Xcalak is a frontier town wedged between Laguna Xcalak and the Caribbean, at the end of the line on the Mexico/Belize boarder.  It is small (300 habitants) and has a distinct frontier feel. People come here to snorkel, dive, fish, bird watch or just kick back. There is a nudist hotel, Playa Sonrisa (Smile Beach) with day passes available for those who hate those pesky tan lines.

Fourteen Cuban refugees managed to find their way here a number of years ago, and their escape boat sits on the beach paying testament to desperation.

Cuban Refugee Boat

Cuban Refugee Boat

In this jungle town you would not expect to find a restaurant the likes of The Leaky Palapa. It is world class dining and folks drive hours to eat here. We were lucky enough to spend an evening with the owners Marla and Linda. They exchanged Canadian winters for life on the beach in sunny Mexico. We enjoyed a lovely dinner sitting on the roof trading travel stories, laughing and learning about life off the grid.  Their reservations for New Year’s Eve are filling up fast. Better get your name on the list.

We stayed at the Flying Cloud Hotel, not very relaxing during off-season renovations. We did get a chance to check out the dive shop next door and will return in the spring to check “learning to dive” off our bucket list. The wild weather made for a night of intense storms and no electricity in the morning.

Stormy Skies

Beautiful Stormy Skies

Lisa did manage to get in some snorkeling while an ear infection kept me beached.

Lisa Snorkeling

Lisa Heading Out To Snorkel

The coastal road proved to be a challenging choice for our trip north toward home. I volunteered to check the depth of the washed out road.

How Deep Is It?

How Deep Is It?

A Slippery Step

A Slippery Step

After a good laugh, we continued our way to Mahahual for lunch and then home. We will definitely be back to enjoy the friendship and beautiful reef in this out-of-the way town that was worth the trip.

What Could Go Right

Lessons in Sadness and Inspiration

20 Oct

My visionary voice for this week’s blog is clearly on vacation. The first topic I have considered sharing is the sadness I’ve been experiencing.  I have committed to honesty in this life-changing process of moving to Mexico, the good, the bad and the ugly. I clearly have a lot of judgement about being THAT honest. I posted a selfie on Facebook and was admonished to “smile” and look happy. After all, I’m retired and living in paradise, what’s the problemo?

My first inclination has been to push the feelings away, not tell anyone and pretend they don’t exist. I don’t want people to try to fix, analyze or criticize, as if  I could control the world. I can understand why people who are depressed go for years without telling anyone. But I am not depressed, just sad, and I’m not sure why, nor do I care to spend a lot of time trying to figure it out.  I have faith that I am loved and that sadness is a normal part of life and that the answer will come to me. It usually does.

The second topic is inspiration. I have come across two people this week who inspired me greatly. One of them is Diana Nyad. You may recall that she recently completed a Cuba to Florida 110 mile swim at age 64, after three failed attempts. Watching her interview with Oprah on youtube was riveting. She did not let the haters deter her from big and bold failure. Against huge odds she didn’t give up. I am always interested in how to stay motivated and love hearing other people’s stories.

I came across more inspiration from a young man named Slim, who has the website The Next Forty Days . Slim weighed 600 pounds in 2012. He saw a video  by Arthur Booreman who used DDP Yoga to reclaim his life of obesity and disability. I had also seen Arthur’s video and as a result, purchased the CDs that have become favorites for Lisa and me. Slim was inspired by Arthur as well, and used DDP Yoga to springboard his life into something incredible. He not only lost 150 pounds in six months, he and his wife Laura began setting forty-day goals of all types. They’ve given up meat for 40 days, done a juice fast, volunteered, raised money and so much more.  He has devoted his time to helping other people while figuring out how to change his own life.  I am a geek for goal setting.

So maybe my sadness has been a rebound of setting the BIG goal of participating in a 46 mile kayaking marathon that I splashed all over last week’s blog, SMART or Estupida. My fear of failure, that I wasn’t even aware of, reared it’s head and roared. People have commented about how “inspirational” I am. My goal with this blog has been to leave bread crumbs for anyone who cares to make big changes in their life. I guess Diana, Arthur, and Slim have done the same and I am willing to follow their trail.

Laguna Bacalar, Mexico

Laguna Bacalar, Mexico

Let Go Of The Life You Planned

Let Go Of The Life You Planned



SMART or Estupida?

13 Oct

I have always done better with a goal, a BIG goal. At age 40 I got through the coming-out process by discovering triathlons. Bike – Cycle – Run. I completed my first triathlon dead last of all participants. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across the finish line to a cheering crowd and heard my name called to receive an award (I still have it). I had finished third in my age group of three. I had fun and learned a lot, like the need to get all event details instead of assuming the run portion is a 5k (3.2 miles) instead of 5 miles.

Participating in a triathlon fueled my interest in cycling. My 40s were spent on a bicycle, on long rides with Team Roadkill and by myself. My longest event ride was over two days from Houston to Austin in the MS 150. I had fun and learned to really, really pay attention to the weather and not assume a beautiful Texas spring day.

For my 50th birthday I completed my one and only marathon. I joined a training group that met at Runtex in Austin. I logged weekday miles on a treadmill and weekends with the Runtex group that included an experienced leader. I had fun traversing the city on foot and learned not to blindly trust a trainer. Being inexperienced I could have done nothing else and ended up barely finishing the marathon.

And now, retired at age 61, having spent the last year in training for the monumental task of moving to Mexico, I wasn’t exactly looking for a new goal. My body isn’t so keen on running or spending long hours on a bicycle. I love to walk and have dreamed of a trip to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago. But nothing immediate, that is until this week.

Being a fan of the book, Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Harry Lodge, I am aware that as one ages, it is even more important to participate in strenuous physical activity, preferably with a goal in mind. That’s why when I saw the Paddle Marathon Laguna Bacalar, a race the length of Laguna Bacalar scheduled for May 1-3, 2014, my interest was piqued. I’ve already noticed the progress I have made with my kayaking since arriving in Bacalar six weeks ago. I go further every day with less effort. However, the idea of kayaking 46 miles over a two-day period seems daunting, outrageous, even insane. Which is exactly why I want to do it.

I have a sweet little kayak that is sleek and perfect for the race. Before leaving Austin, I invested in a carbon paddle which is lighter than aluminum, having already entertained the thought of a long paddle, perhaps with an overnight stay. Just maybe this half-brained scheme is attainable. At the least, I will have fun and learn stuff. No permanent damage done? Right?

SMART Objectives
S- Specific – Race (and I use that word lightly) the length of Laguna Bacalar
M- Measurable 46 miles over two days
A- Attainable – which remains to be seen
R- Reasonable – it is doable by others, young enough to be my grandchildren
T- Time framed – May 1-3, 2014

There’s plenty of time to train, so if you’re at all interested, please come join me. There will be a kayak film festival and a week of activities surrounding the event. At the very least, you can wave from the shore with your binoculars as I go whizzing by.

Blue Bliss

Blue Bliss

Kayak in Heaven

Paddle Heaven

Thought for the Day

Life Begins

Meet the Neighbors

6 Oct

From the minute I hit “send” on Sunday my thoughts turn to what to write for the next week. I look for interesting patterns, new items to share, or ah-ha moments. This week is encounters with insect, reptile and bird neighbors. The photos are from the internet, not mine.

Lisa saw a very large snake crossing the driveway where we live. Upon research, we learned that the mangrove snake is one of the largest snakes in the tropics. What Lisa saw was at least 6′ long. They are harmless to humans who leave them alone.

Mangrove Snake

Mangrove Snake

We have a neighbor about twenty miles up the lake who has a young crocodile hanging out near her dock. With the swollen lake, the cocodrillos sometimes move into human habitats. There have been numerous postings to the expat Yahoo Group as to how to relocate the 3′ long youngster. The running request is that it goes FAR from Bacalar.

Young Cocodrillo

Young Cocodrillo

We frequently see snail kites, large black and white hawks that chow down on the juicy snails that abound in Laguna Bacalar. Locals harvest the snails for ceviche, a delicacy for humans and lunch for the hawks.

Snail Kite

Snail Kite

Last night Lisa called me to come quietly and bring the camera. I was not lucky enough to catch a photo of these camera shy moths that have been hanging around. Here is the internet version. They have large “eyes” on their wings to trick predators.

Large Moth

Large Moth

We watch dragon flies flutter in the evening air and geckos, small nocturnal lizards scurry across the ceiling both inside and out. Life in the tropics is certainly a chance to meet many new and interesting neighbors.

Another Amazing Sunrise

Another Amazing Sunrise

Have Faith

Have Faith


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