Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gringos en San Pancho

As we touched down in Puerto Vallerta, the flight attentant came on the loudspeaker and told everyone to “Give it up for Mexico!”  He let out a whoop and the whole plane joined in.  We quickly and easily passed through Customs and exited the air conditioned airport into the thick, hot air of Puerto Vallerta.  Once we made it past all the taxi drivers, who get out of their cabs and follow you, claiming to “have a good rate for you, amigo!”  We hopped on what we guessed was the right bus.  We got off a few blocks away at a bus depot, and after a while, were on a (thankfully air condidioned) bus to San Pancho.  

San Pancho is a small town just north of Sayulita, to the north of Puerto Vallerta. 

There are only 1600 permanent residents, and no large hotels.  We’re renting the ground floor unit of a large home owned by a Canadian couple, who spend the winters down here.   The town is wonderful for it’s small, sleepy feel.  The main street is lined with little shops; mini-supers that sell food, little clothing shops, a paint store, carnercerias selling meat.
We thought this was yogurt- "Cream of cow acidified," but it is actually sour cream!   
 The food has been fantastic so far.  (And we’re both feeling fine and healthy.)  We had some really excellent shrimp empanadas for dinner one night, at a cute little place off the main drag.  We also have come to look forward to Wednesday and Sunday evenings, when the churro truck is in town.  They’re hot and fresh and served on a sheet of brown paper after being dredged in cinnamon sugar, and are a complete steal at 5 pesos each.  My mouth is watering right now.  Yum. 

A fantastic dinner beneath a palapa roof.  
A churro fresh from the fryer.  
The produce is also excellent.  We buy it occasionally at a little shop up the street, but more often from a truck that drives around town with a loud speaker blaring, “lechuga, cebollas, tomates, manzanas, cebollas, bananas, cebollas.”  (He always seems especially proud of his cebollas, the onions.)  We always scramble for shoes and money when we hear him coming. 

Our purchases from the fruit truck only added up to 42 pesos, or about $3.80.  
 There are three schools, and in the mornings and early afternoons the streets are full of children in uniforms, running and calling to one another.  I especially love seeing the littlest girls in the afternoons, with one knee sock hanging down over their mary-janes, their oversized backpacks limply strapped to their shoulders, happily crunching on a bag of cheetos that vendors sell only when school gets out. 

A peanut vendor on the beach.

We’ve been spending a lot of time on the beach, both here in San Pancho, and at Sayulita, which is a 10 minute, 80 peso cab ride down the highway.
Beach time in San Pancho
Actually, the first day we went there, we were heading down the road to the highway, looking for a cab, when a little red car with a young couple in the front seats stopped.  “Going to Sayulita?” the pretty girl in the front seat asked, in Spanish, of course.    We  nodded, and she motioned us to hop in.  So we did.  Unfortunately they only spoke really rapid Spanish to one another, and we didn’t really get to meet them before we were dropped on a street corner in Sayulita.  But we’ve seen that little red car around town, and they always wave at us… Maybe we’ll get another chance.  

This dog, who is called Mats by everyone in town, has adopted us.  Whenever he sees us leaving the house, he trots alongside on our way to the beach, or the plaza, or wherever we're headed.  He's showing us the back way to the beach in this photo.   (It's a good thing we didn't drive here...  He may have snuck into the van on our way home!)
Sayulita has a much better beach for beginner surfers.  I had more success there than I have here in San Pancho.  Cody has been killin’ it, both here and in Sayulita.  I have been, well, more like getting killed than killin’ it I suppose.  I don’t enjoy getting my sinuses filled with salt water, but I really enjoy being out on the water, and paddling is great exercise.  Good thing we’ve got lots of time to practice!

Trying to catch a wave... 
Where'd that surfboard go? 
The other evening when we were out on the beach, Cody was surfing with a couple of Mexican kids.  Edgar and Armandro are locals here, and Edgar especially had been just shredding the waves all afternoon.  We talked to another gringo on the beach, and he had nicknamed Edgar “Rocket Man” because he just flies through the waves.  Anyway, Cody made friends with these kids, and just as he was leaving they asked him if they could come over and see the house sometime.  Cody of course, agreed.  On our way home, I made sure to buy a few cokes to have in the fridge for our new amigos! 
Edgar in action.
Tonight is supposed to be the first night of the San Pancho Fiesta.  In fact, as I write, the brass band that has been practicing in our neighbor’s backyard is hard at it, presumably preparing for the eight days of food, music, and partying that are upcoming.  We were chatting with Juan, the man who waters the garden at our house, and he told us there will be a rodeo, and all sorts of festivities. 

A bull in someone's back yard.  
In the mean time, we’re loving San Pancho, and looking forward to next Wednesday when our friends Brian and Hannah come down!  (And it’s also churro night.  They’re in for a treat!)  

¡Vive los suenos! 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Its aboot time!

There is a perfectly good explanation for our lack of blogging.  We left the charger to our computer in Salt Lake about a month ago.  It is pretty much customary for us to forget a least one thing at every place we stop.  So we have been bumming charges any chance we get.  Right now however, I am writing from a computer in the Squamish Library, because we havn't found a charge in a while.

The last month or so has been busy.  My brother Dylan and good friend Tim asked us if we wanted to climb the Grand Teton with them, we just finished working in Salt Lake so we said we would see them the next day.  Luckily we left with some extra time because the van proceeded to have a severe coolant leak and we had to return to Salt Lake so I could fix it.

With perfect timing we arrived in Jackson at almost the same time as Dylan and Tim.  We climbed a little at a local sport crag and then went up to the campground to prep for tomorrow's accent.  We scanned over topos and read route descriptions with all the confidence in the world.  Then after checking over our packs we went to sleep early.

What I didn't realize until morning was that I was the only one who went to sleep early.  Turns out that Beth, Dylan, and Tim couldn't fall asleep, so they all got only an hour or two of sleep, the perfect way to start an alpine adventure.  We all got up at 3:00 am like we planned and drove to the trailhead.  Spirits were high and we hiked quickly up the switchbacks, watching an incredible sunrise over the valley below.  We reached the meadows and were encouraged by the mountain we saw, it looked different than from the valley floor, it looked much less intimidating.  So we hiked along a trail straight for it, and soon realized that rising up to our right was the actual mountain we came to climb.  Moral was breifly stunted, this mountain looked HUGE and far away,  but we kept pushing forward.  We got a little off route, reached the moraine and climbed the fixed lines to the lower saddle.

Decision time on the Lower Saddle

This is where things went downhill.  The wind at the lower saddle was 40 gusting to 60, and the mountain still looked huge.  Beth decided she didn't want to go any further, so she stayed and waited at the lower saddle while Tim Dylan and myself headed for the upper saddle.  After a few hundred yards Dyland and Tim decided the were done.  Dyland was haveing trouble with the altitude, maybe having spent too much time at sea level, and Tim's knee was giving him problems.  I kept going on my own, thinking the climbing was of an easy grade and maybe I could climb it solo.  I made it to the upper saddle and looked at what I thought was the route, but the wind, exposure and not knowing the route convinced me to turn back.

The hike out was pretty uneventful, we did some glissading down the snowfields, and a few hours later we were at the car. Totally exahsted we went into town for dinner and went to bed early.

Next we found ourselves back in Lander climbing the amazing pocketed limestone of the Wild Iris.  When I hurt my finger climbing in July I noticed a route that looked good, but hadn't been bolted.  Someone put the top anchors in but never finished the route.  Beth, Tim and I decided to bolt it.  We rappeled down the route, cleaned it and looked for crucial holds. We both climbed it on toprope and marked out where we thought the bolts should go.  The next day we tag teamed the route, Tim would drill the holes and clean them out and I would be right behind him hammering in and tightening the bolts.  Tim did the first ascent that morning followed by me and our freind Mike.  Later that day Beth completed the route, her third 12a this summer.  It was the first route any of us had bolted and we think it turned out great.  Technical, sustained climbing moving in and out from slabby to vertical to just overhanging at the top.  We named it Rooster Cogburn.

We needed to be in Seattle in late September to go to Mexico,  but we didn't want to take the standard route on I-90.  So that is what we have been doing for the last week or so.  We visited our friends Kitty and Eric in Missoula, Montana.  Missoula is a city full of hipsters and hippies, and because of that they have the best farmers market I have ever seen.  we had lots of fun floating the river and playing music late into the night.  Eric is a really good musician, and turns out the ukulele and banjo go really well together.

After Missoula we went through Glacier National Park, which was a little underwelming to be honest.  I mean it was pretty cool, but not high on my list of amazing places to see.  We only stayed one day and went on 13 mile hike, called the Highline Trail.  It was a great hike and it left us tired for a while.  We drove across the border and slept in a small town in Alberta for the night.
A Glacier in Glacier Naitonal Park

Saint Mary Lake

We got to Calgary at around 10:00am and spent a few hours exploring the city.  Calgary is really cool, some cities just feel good, and this was one of them.   The downtown is probably about the size of Seattle's downtown, but much easier to walk.  We headed out for Canmore that afternoon and ended up drinking homebrewed gingerbeer and a rootbeer float at a cool local brewery called the Grizzly Paw.

We tried to climb at a crag near Canmore in the morning but it started to rain and there was booming lighning, so we left.  The hot springs in Banff was our next stop, they were developed to look like a pool, which is too bad, but they felt great.  We took in the sights of Banff, which are amazing, shopped around the downtown and treated ourselves to a nice lunch.

Downtown Banff

Not far from Banff is what I thought to be the coolest place we saw on the trip.  Lake Louise and Lake Moraine.   Lake Louise is set beneath towering mountains with glaciers perched on cliffs above.  The Fairmont Hotel is incredible, it is right at the end of the lake.  You can see the lake, the mountains, and the glaciers, from the rooms.  It's the best view from a Hotel that I have ever seen.

Lake Louise

The Dining Hall in the Fairmont Chateau

Lake Moraine, doesn't have quite the star power that Louisa has but is just as great.  The water is much darker, a super rich blue color, it looks like it belongs in some tropical Island destination.  It gets its name from the moraine that was being pushed down by the glacier, that is now holding the water back.
Moraine Lake
This is a chipmunk.  

Atop the Moraine

Not wanting to pay for camping in Banff so we went to Golden.  We found this campsite up by Cedar Lake.  We got in late but in the morning realized we had stumbled upon a nest of bike trails through the forest and around the lakes.  We took our old beat up bikes out and had a lot of fun, only a few crashes.  We walked through Golden and waited for the farmers market to start.   An old lumber baron had told us that there was timber-framed bridge in town, so we had to check that out too.  It is quite the structure, and was built with the help of over one hundred timber-framers from around the world.

The Timber Framer's Guild Bridge

 We left Golden and drove most of the day to get to a small campsite near Ashcroft BC, and today we drove one of the most gnarly highways ever, between Cache Creek and Pemberton.  Full of hairpin turns while going down, and, I quote, "Extreme Grades".  Anyway we are now in Squamish and ready to climb.