Chapter 5.  Mazatlan, Sinaloa

© Bert & Shari Frenz, 2000 All rights reserved.


Friday, January 21, 2000 - Mazatlan, Sinaloa (Milepost 751, N 23.289, W 106.470)

(Bert) Caravans rarely pass through little Costa Rica, so this morning as our big vehicles and long train command its main street the townspeople stop their activities to watch the parade pass, many waving, all curious. Out of town we drive a new toll road that would rival any U.S. interstate highway in smoothness, width and (1399 bytes) Trees have been planted in the median and litter is collected. But all of this comes at a price: two tolls totaling 420 pesos for the 125-mi. drive for our motor home plus tow car. As we near Mazatlan, hundreds of frigatebirds soar high above the road, a surprise to me since I've previously only seen them over water. Our campground is a coconut palm grove, stately and shaded, across the street from the Gulf of California. Driving the streets of Mazatlan, I am reminded of coastal Florida or maybe a smaller version of San Diego. Many signs are in English, stores are familiar - MacDonalds, Sam's - and everything is congested. We stop at an Internet Café to get e-mail, but the experience only leads to frustration. We have not sent or received e-mail since San Carlos almost two weeks ago. Now when we hook up to a local server, the service is so slow that only three messages are received and one sent after a half-hour online. Our backlog is dozens to send and a couple hundred to receive. After 30 min. of frustration and no success we disconnect, but are still charged 30 pesos for the connection. A cultural difference, I have found here in Mexico that if a service is offered, a payment is expected even if the service cannot be provided.

(Shari) There go Karla and Walt with Woody and Gwen right behind them. I think to myself as I watch the rigs pull out that we have become family now. These last three days here have bonded us and I look at each one with affection as they wave at me. We are awaiting the last rig to pull out before we too can join the train to Mazatlan. The morning is foggy and we drive slowly. The children in Costa Rica wave as we go by and the adults stare. Seeing a caravan of 14 RVs is an unusual occurrence for them. Again the banter on the CB is hilarious. A series of bird puns starts with a group of "frigatebirds" described as an armada, then the captain of the British fleet must be a "drake," then quickly deteriorates to not "gandering" all that and the conversation getting pretty "fowl." We arrive in Mazatlan well before noon but it takes a good 90 min. to get us all parked. R-TENT fits in a tight squeeze and at first I thought we were not all going to make it. But the caravan company arranged and reserved spots for us and we are now all lined up under the palm trees next to the swimming pool. After lunch Bert and I attempt to receive our e-mail. Nowhere I've been before have they expected to receive payment for not providing a service. But here in Mexico it seems to be usual. This is the second time we leave an Internet place unfulfilled and frustrated. We went to the Internet Café next to the Subway and spent 45 minutes accomplishing nothing. We kept saying it does not work. Finally we just gave up and were told we had to pay for the time we were not connected. What a bummer! After our travel meeting we talk Ralph and Virginia into going out to eat with us. We find a coupon in the newspaper and get 10% off our delicious meals at a Mexican restaurant: shrimp for me and fish stuffed with octopus for Bert. Plus Margaritas and beer. I could get used to this lifestyle real easy!

Saturday, January 22, 2000 - Mazatlan, Sinaloa

(Bert) Dimly revealed in the dense morning fog, the night-herons stand vigil in the willows near estuary's edge. Ghost-like images of Laughing Gulls wing into view briefly, then disappear again in the gray soup. A small warbler in the underbrush close at our feet escapes the fog, but still remains hidden in the tangle. I get one good look at its chestnut-colored head on a bright yellow body - a Mangrove Warbler - before it again disappears. Slowly the morning sun burns off the fog and sunrise rays illuminate a Yellow Grosbeak like a brilliant light bulb at the top of a tall tree. As we leave our morning's birding, Walt, Jim and I hear the fuss of scolding birds. Fifteen feet into the underbrush a Berylline Hummingbird buzzes between branches and immediately a chattering Happy Wren darts into the same view. Then to top it all off, in the same binocular view we notice a Ferruginous Pygmy Owl camera.GIF (1399 bytes) calmly perched at the center of the flurry. The petite 6-in. owl remains perched long enough for me to take four photos and Walt to line up his spotting scope for a full-frame view. Upon my return, Shari and I again try our luck at transferring e-mail, this time at Mail Boxes Etc. The young manager has a bit of a don't-bother-me attitude, but his English is very good and we discuss various options. The main problem here in Mazatlan is that the only access to local Internet providers is through cable modems connected through Ethernet ports, something not easily accessible to my personal notebook computer. If I only needed to send/receive a few messages, I could rent one of the computers on their network for 25 pesos for 25 minutes. My alternatives are reduced to using the telephone line attached to their fax machine and paying for the call with my calling card. In addition, their charge is 10 pesos per minute for a Mexico phone number (I try an Avantel number, but can't get it to work) or 20 pesos per minute for a U.S. 800-number. So I instruct my computer to dial an international TelMex 800-number, then my access code and then the local number in Texas of my Internet provider. I send out a couple dozen messages - including five daily journals to the 157 people on this subscriber list - and I receive about 200 messages in 8 minutes. My bill comes to 160 pesos, a stiff price to pay for e-mail.

(Shari) The dust has been accumulating in the sink too long. Since the birders are out early again, I take this time to clean. When Bert returns, we try for the third time to get e-mail. This time we go to Mail Boxes Etc. All parking places in front of the shop and along the street are taken so we double park and I wait in the car in case I have to move. That is the mode of operation here anyway: too much traffic and too few parking areas. As I wait, I people watch. So many Americans and Canadians are mingled in the pedestrians I see. Dressed in 70's polyester, orange tank tops and faded - yet still gaudy - plaid shorts, they come and go. Old white Volkswagen Beetles are the predominant automobile. The big SUV's sport American plates. Taxi cabs look like converted golf carts. After 45 minutes I lock the car, and quickly run into the store to see what is taking so long. Bert is standing at a counter and tells me it is working, but at $2 per minute, this will be expensive. Unfortunately, we have another 80 cents per minute tacked onto our calling card. So for 8 minutes of connect time, we pay $20. Heh! At least we got through and did transfer hundreds of posts! We spend the rest of the afternoon reading and responding to our mail. We are terribly disappointed we did not receive any news from Missy. We have been waiting news from her for a while. Late afternoon we walk across the street, through the other side of our RV park and down to the beach. The sand is clean and smooth with the waves lapping the (1399 bytes) Few bathers are in the cool water but many are lounging around the pool at the nearby resort. Ignoring the "Private Resort" signs, we walk its manicured grounds and remark how Hawaii-like it is. However, like Phoenix, this is the desert and everything is heavily irrigated and therefore really a fake paradise. The guests here are wealthy Americans mixed with Mexicans, young families and older retired folks, all well dressed with matching T-shirts, sun visors or hats. We return via the street and its litter infested sides. The amount of trash along the road is supposed to be less than it used to be. The Americans complained to the mayor of Mazatlan and he ordered littering to be a finable offense. Yet we see a Mexican drop his cup on the ground as he walks by. I want to grab him by the collar and shake him. Another country, another culture!

Sunday, January 23, 2000 - Mazatlan, Sinaloa

(Shari) I do not know where to begin. Today was so busy from a unique church service to gory bullfight. We did e-mail in-between, another project that involved sending messages at the Internet Café and receiving messages across the street at Mail Boxes Etc. Our church service this morning is held on the disco floor of a local restaurant. The owners of the restaurant make it available to a Lutheran pastor for interdenominational English services. They are the only Mexicans in the crowd. All the rest are from the U.S. and Canada with a preponderance of Minnesotans. Chairs are set in a semi-circle facing the bar and next to pool tables. The pastor is a former missionary and makes light of the stereotypical Lutheran in his attempt to make the other denominations present feel welcome. Everyone circles the altar and takes communion by a method of intinction, a term I had never heard before where the bread is dipped into the wine or grape juice. We attend this service with three other couples from our caravan, one of which is Presbyterian. Later in the afternoon we flag one of those golf cart taxis that are so popular. I negotiate the price of 50 pesos to take four of us to the bullring. I sit in the front with the driver since I am the most versed in Spanish among us. That does not say much. However, I learn that we will enjoy the bull fight, that we should sit on the shady side, that the Tranky Chicken is two blocks further on and that the cost of a taxi to the market is 80 pesos. At 3:15 the gate is opened and the crowd enters the bullring. We walk to seats front and center. The ring is much smaller than I expected, about 130 feet in diameter. An inner wall, painted red, separates us from the action. The crowd starts to clap and a small brass band plays typical bullfight songs. Soon the bullfighters, dressed in sparkling costumes, enter and take their bows with much (1399 bytes) The bullfight is about to begin. I was told not to come by many others, but I had to experience this for myself. Words describing it include disgusting, gory, sickening and dumb. Nevertheless, I wanted to see for myself. I am surprised that only Pat and Lee go with us. John and Kim planned on going, but then John decided he wanted to see the football game instead. What I am about to describe may be a bit graphic for some readers. I suggest you not read any further if you have a weak stomach. I know I could not eat dinner right away when I got home and needed to unwind my mind and my stomach first. The fight starts innocuous enough: a sprite man dashes center stage and proudly holds a billboard introducing the bull, weight and breeding farm. Then the bull runs out and around the ring unaware of his pending fate. He has a small dagger in his side bedecked with ribbons, but that is just to make him mad, I suppose. Four toreadors with pink capes entice the bull from one end of the ring to another. Soon the matador steps in with his red cape and plays around with the bull. He looks up to three men in the stands for a sign to bring in the picadors, riding horses encased in padding over metal sheathing. With newspaper over their eyes, tied with a rag, the horses are unaware of the bull charging at them. The bull charges, I hear the clank of the metal and see the dagger, 6 inches by 2 inches attached to a 5-ft. pole, enter the shoulder of the bull. One, two, three and more times the dagger strikes its (1399 bytes) Blood is gushing out of the wound like a fountain and I cannot look. I wonder when it will stop. The poor bull has blood running down his sides, over his hooves and onto the ground. He just does not know what hit him and he is mad. He charges at the red cape, again and again until he tires out. Now it is time to lay in the 3-in. harpoon-like things attached to 2-ft. poles bedecked in colored crepe paper. Two at a time, the matadors, without their capes, try to stick in the barbed knives. Sometimes they hold, sometimes not. Again the matador looks to the three men in the stand for permission to go on with the kill. The bull's tongue is hanging limply from his mouth, white foamy stuff comes out and water, whether urine or sweat, just pours from under him. The crowd roars, "Andale! Andale! Andale!" - get on with it! The matador grabs a long sword and hides it behind his red cape. He dances around the ring enticing the bull to put its head down. The bull is so tired he cannot keep his head up. He stumbles and falls. Now the matador has to get him back up. The crowd boos. The bull returns to his feet frantically looking for an escape. Finally he puts his head downcamera.GIF (1399 bytes) and the matador lunges, trying to sink the full length of the long sword into the flesh of the bull. He misses. I want to cry out "Andale!" by now. Finally he gets it down, the bull bellows and falls, the crowd sighs, and men come out to finish the killing of the bull with short knives thrust into the brain. The bull twitches, his legs stiffen and he gasps his last breath. The bull is tied to a cart that is pulled from the ring by a horse. So ends one fight. There are three more to follow and I am ready to go home, I have seen enough. A new matador comes out and finishes the process much faster, getting ole's from the crowd and taking a bow. Two more to go! Finally after two hours and four dead bulls, the fight is over. Now I can say, "Been there. Done that. Don't have to do it again."

(Bert) Some days are so full of stories, I find it hard to chose one to write about. We started with interdenominational church services in a local restaurant - entering "church" through a broad gate proudly proclaiming "Special - 6 Pacificos or Coronos $50.00" above the doorway - and ended with a Mottled Owl illuminated by a bright flashlight and hooting softly from a palm tree above our campsite. Undoubtedly, the highlight of the day was the Mazatlan Bullfight at the Plaza Monumental. After reading several Michener novels where he describes bullfights in detail, I have always wanted to see one, although with some misgivings about the bloodier aspects of the sport. The bullfight is carefully choreographed; from the dramatic entrance of the ragging bull to the last stick of the knife through its brain. Not for the tenderhearted, animal rights activists must be in real pain to see the way the bull meets its ultimate end. I find myself routing for the bull, but it's betting on the losing team. Looking past the unseemly aspects of the sport, I gain admiration for the matador. In another world, he could be a ballet dancer costumed in his tightly fitting sequined attire, slim and fit from exercise. The flair of his hands, the arching of his back, the intensity in his face, the gracefulness of his steps belie the danger only inches in front of him as the fiercely angry bull hooves the dirt and lowers his head and aims the long cruel horns at the red cloth. One bull gains my admiration and that of the crowd. Defiantly standing his ground in the center of the ring, the half-ton bull paws the ground, rotating in sequence to each of the toreadors hugging the perimeter of the ring, but refusing to be baited by the flash of tantalizing colors. When finally induced into charging, the bull defies the placement of their deathly darts but eventually draws blood anyway. Repeatedly and without success the matador attempts to end the bull's life, but the bull hangs on tenaciously. Sweat pores from the matador's face, his arms aching in repeated battle, the arch in his back sags. But in the end the bull is dead and the matador merely exhausted. When the huge draft horse drags off the carcass, the matador salutes the bull and refuses to take his customary bow. The bull won the battle, but lost the war.

Monday, January 24, 2000 - La Capilla del Texte, Sinaloa (N 23.409, W 105.680)

(Shari) Our caravan is now nine in number. We are car-pooling up the mountain to a place called Villa Blanca Hotel. There we will spend the night so the birders can get an early start to see the famed Tufted Jay. We wind our way through Mazatlan, always in CB contact with the wagon master or we'd surely get lost. Pets are dropped off at La Jungla Clinica Veterinaria for boarding and grooming. Poor Gwen just cries her eyes out as she leaves her Penny behind. Then it is up, up, up the mountain. Our first stop is at a roadside vendor outside of the small town of (1399 bytes) Here we look at jewelry, carved faces in Kapoc wood, pottery and furniture. I am tempted to buy some real silver earrings, but pass. Next we stop for lunch at Capela, a darling little town nestled in the hills. Here we eat at an open-air restaurant - Daniels - that serves a coconut-banana cream pie to die (1399 bytes) The birders are up and down during the whole meal, just chomping at the bit to get better sights of the new birds in this different terrain. We have an hour after lunch to meander the town or shop or bird. Guess what I do? I find a lovely beer mug and a piece of pottery from Kenneth Edwards, a famous artisan in Mexico. One of the shops has a scene painted on ceramic tiles that would look great in our kitchen when we redo it. I do not even have to talk hard to convince Bert it is a good idea. Now to get it home without breaking it! Finally after two hours of climbing the winding roads we turn into Villa Blanca. Nestled in the pines, it has an open-air porch, where we take our meals, and eleven small rooms with a double bed and a clean bathroom in (1399 bytes) Owned by a couple in Germany and managed by Spanish-only speaking caretakers it offers a unique mixture of Mexico and Germany. We order our evening meal to be served at 6:30 and have choices of frankfurters, smoked pork chops, shredded pork, or chili relleno. All come with bread, sauerkraut and potato pancakes. Since the birders have a 5:15 breakfast call, we retire early.

(Bert) Our view from Daniel's terrace balcony overlooks a lush, if dry, valley nestled in a U-shaped boundary of mountains. We await lunch, but instead of sitting around our tables, we line the edge of the balcony watching a soaring Common Black-Hawk clipping the mountain edges and a half-dozen Yellow-billed Cacique throwing splashes of yellow among the green papaya trees below us. This morning we threaded our way through the city streets of Mazatlan, onto the main highway and then wound through the mountain roads, climbing thousands of feet above the coastline, but probably only traversing 30 miles as the crow flies. After a delicious lunch in the open-air setting of an even more delicious view, we climbed yet higher in a caravan of eight cars (we left our bigger homes back at the RV park). Finally at 4500-ft. elevation, we stop at a small hotel where just two days ago Carmen, et al., had negotiated the rental of all eleven rooms. The rooms are small, the accommodations sparse, and the setting in the tiny town is back-roads rustic. We walk a quarter mile down the road to a mountain viewpoint Jim had found years earlier and wait for a parade of orioles and hummingbirds to find us. Patiently, the hummers rest on branches giving us a great opportunity to study their color arrangements, many included in their names: Violet-crowned, Rufous, Berylline, Broad-tailed and Costa's. And they flutter among the many flowers - white, yellow, red - which crown the tops of the mountain trees. Dinner, which includes German-style foods, is spread on two long tables stretched the length of the open-air porch of Villa Blanca and the cooler mountain air feels good after our last week of heat along the coast. At sunset, we climb the stairs to the flat roof. Like gray waves, mountain crests recede in the distance until they nearly reach the horizon, there to end in a shimmering thin slice of the sea. The flaming orange sun is half submerged and as it slips further below the horizon I watch a phenomenon I have not seen before. Maintaining its width the sun shrinks from a half disc to a flattened orange pancake, then narrows its thickness to a brilliant line and, in an instant, disappears. Later in the evening we again climb to the roof and gaze at the thousands of stars visible from our mountain heights. In the constellation Orion, Ed points out a nebula clearly seen through my binoculars in the third star of the hunter's sword. We take a shooting star as a good luck charm for tomorrow's hunt for the Tufted Jay.

Tuesday, January 25, 2000 - Mazatlan, Sinaloa

(Bert) By 5 AM all birders are out of bed and, after breakfast - the hotel staff got here at 3:30 to prepare, we caravan still higher up the Sierra Madre Occidental, continuing on the Durango Highway. During our 45-min. climb in darkness, we must have made hundreds of turns, often encountering long semi trucks crawling upward or exhaust-breaking downward. As dawn breaks we pull off at Barranca Rancho Liebre: 7000-ft. elevation, but still a bit short of the crest. From here, only the 4-wheel drive vehicles continue. Gene tries his front-wheel drive Toyota Rav, but it throws stones as its tires spin uselessly. So, carrying the extra passengers, I make two trips up and down the extremely steep and uneven rock road. A couple of hundred feet higher, we park our vehicles and continue on foot, stopping in the woods to listen for the dawn chorus. For an hour we hear only silence and the occasional exhaust brakes of a distant semi. The anticipated Tufted Jay is a no show. I take out my Mexican bird field guide and look up the jay. In addition to its striking arrangement of colors and its stiffly erect crest spread like a hundred fingers pointing upward, the Tufted Jay is on most birder's wish list because its endemic range is very small: just the high altitude Pacific Slope near the intersection of Sinaloa, Durango and Nayarit. Further down the forest path Jim and I encounter Mountain and Elegant Trogons - parrot-like in their brilliant display of emerald green, crimson red and a belt of pure white. I hear an unusual jay calling and Jim thinks it's the Tufted. Shortly a jay swoops through the trees along the hillside, but too fast to mark. Further down the path, Gene and Sandy see it perch briefly and recall seeing lots of white when we quiz them. It seems a Tufted Jay has teased us, but we aren't sure. Our group further spreads apart and on a solo venture I find Red-faced Warbler. Anxious to see one too, Carmen decides she should tag along with me and together we track down White-striped Woodcreeper - characteristically creeping up a pine tree - White-throated Robin and Red-headed Tanager. Then I again hear the telltale jay's call. Watching the trees banking the hillside, we see a white and blue jay appear, jumping from tree to tree until it is close enough for me to try telephoto camera shots. camera.GIF (1399 bytes)  Another jay appears, then another, until at least eight put on a show for Carmen and me: pecking into bromeliads, inspecting cones and fussing like all jays do. I hoped for one, now I have a circus-full of performers - and close enough to gaze at their strange tufts. Before the morning is through I add eleven lifers to my list, including endemics: Pine Flycatcher, Russet Nightingale-Thrush, Slate-colored Redstart, Golden-browed Warbler and Crescent-chested Warbler. Noon comes too soon, but just as we leave the spot were we parked we see a Mountain Trogon camera.GIF (1399 bytes) hidden in the shadows. We begin our descent to Mazatlan, wishing we could have just a few more hours in this birding paradise.

(Shari) I hear Jan talking to the caretaker and join her on the veranda for coffee. We talk and read a bit before ordering our breakfast. At noon the birders return and some, not all, have seen the Tufted Jay. Luckily Bert did, or he would be grumpy all week. We follow John, Kim and Walt down the mountain. Walt, reveling in his new role of wagon master, keeps us laughing the entire trip. He tells Sandy and Gene to turn off onto some bumpy dirt road, but the rest of us are to go straight. He points out scenic areas and spots of interest. He asks if anyone has to make a pottery stop. Soon turns become terns and the puns begin, giving the whole conversation a new twist. Our caravan splits when the pet people go one way to pick up their animals and we go another. We follow the Cuota road and unbelievably get off on an ON ramp. Apparently that is how it is done and we all follow just hoping no Policia see us. We only have two hours to shower and clean up before the bus picks us up for the Fiesta. Doors open at 6:30 and, following Barbara's lead, we find our tables front and center. We are told to tip the waiter 50 pesos when he brings our first drink and we will never be without drinks all evening. And that is the truth. I have not even finished my first margarita before another one is set in front of me. A band plays music in the background and soon people are on the stage dancing. Bert must have said something to John, who relays it, about me loving to dance and he having two left feet, because before you know it, Walt is asking me to dance. He is a wonderful leader and we jitterbug until, as he says, we wear the band down and the song stops. I am short of breath and wonder how I could have danced all night long at weddings in my youth. As soon as we return to our seats, the buffet line opens and we fill our plates with all sorts of Mexican treats from rice, chicken, steak, and beans to sweet tamales and Empanadas. After dinner entertainment includes a Mexican variety show with dancers, singers, magicians and (1399 bytes) The show is excellent, but the best part is a youthful Canadian, pulled from the audience, to help the magician. Hamming his part up, the magician turns into the straight man. Laughing until tears roll, I join the audience in giving him a standing ovation at the end of the act. After the show, the band continues to play; YMCA, A Little Bit of Monica, and the Macarena are popular songs. We wiggle and hum our way back to the bus.

Wednesday, January 26, 2000 - Mazatlan, Sinaloa

(Shari) I am up before Bert this morning. Today is my day: Jan and I are going SHOPPING. We hop on the bus across the street from the trailer park noticing that it is full of Americans with the same idea as ours. We hop off at the mall near the gold coast and spend the next four hours perusing the different stalls. So many good-looking things at such reasonable prices tempt us. I'd love to get Christmas gifts here, but it seems so early to buy and have to store it in R-TENT for 11 months. I do find a T-shirt for myself, a ring, some papier-mâché fruit and a basket. The vendors here bargain price and we learn not to accept the first price given. The reply to "Cuanto" usually is "Not much", even if it is $100. Both Jan and I are looking for embroidered blouses, but we have not seen what we want yet. Karla tells me that another store we missed has wonderful blouses. Oh darn, I will have to go back tomorrow to check it out. No bus stops are apparent on the street. I had seen some people waving at a bus like one would wave to get a taxi in New York. I try it and the bus stops much to my surprise. This bus is full of Mexicans but we manage to find a seat and communicate with the driver where we want to get off. About a block before our stop I buzz the button that tells the driver to stop. He immediately stops. Apparently, you push the buzzer right where you want to stop and the driver will let you off. We just get off and walk the extra block home. Next time we will know. Now I am so hot that a jump in the cold swimming pool feels good. Pat and Lee are having a party at their van at 5 PM - a very nice thing to do. Here we find that everyone did different things today - some toured the city, some birded, some shopped, some went to the dentist, and some dropped off our gifts at the orphanage. It is good to have a free day once in awhile.

(Bert) For the first time in months I sleep in late, arising at 8:15. Today is a free day and I use it to catch up on computer projects and motor home tasks. Lots of vendors pass through the RV park offering services at attractive prices. I have R-TENT washed from roof to tires for 150 pesos, buy a 5-gal. jug of purified water for 10 pesos, fill our propane tanks at 9 pesos per gal., and have a fiberglass repair and repainting job done on the Jan. 10 "boo boo" for 400 pesos. These prices are half of what I would pay in the U.S. At dusk, Pat and Lee with the smallest rig in the caravan throw the biggest Happy Hour party. It's B.Y.O.C. - bring your own chair. Pat and Lee provide the rest.

Thursday, January 27, 2000 - Mazatlan, Sinaloa

(Bert) Right off the main street through Mazatlan, a locked fence guards a mangrove swamp hiding two ponds and a mud flat. Protecting wetlands and the wildlife that they harbor is not of much importance to Mexican culture. Thus Estero del Yugo is a pleasant surprise and especially pleasing that this refuge is right here in the city limits. Alwin van der Heiden is our guide this morning through the refuge. As a student, he is writing his thesis on the impact of human development on wetland preservation. Alwin leads us on the dirt paths, boardwalk and up the observation tower. He tells us the pond was created as a water source for cattle, but the multiple ownership of the surrounding land was bought up as a government-owned scientific research facility. Yet even as it is theoretically protected, poachers still invade the sanctuary. As we hike the paths, I notice the termite mounds and the papery homes they've built around forks in the trees. An even larger 8-ft. hive is suspended high in one mangrove tree. I wonder what type of bee or wasp made the now abandoned monstrosity. Wildlife is abundant and most obviously represented by a hundred Magnificent Frigatebirds camera.GIF (1399 bytes) that swoop over the pond and within feet of my perch atop the observation (1399 bytes) With an amazingly broad wingspan of 7½ ft., sharply pointed wings, forked tail and black draconian profile, I feel like I took a time machine back to pterodactyls swooping over prehistoric swamps. Our group soon gets separated. I watch a pair of Mule Deer slip from behind the trees to take a drink of water from the pond. But I miss the highlight of the morning. While a dozen others watch from across the pond, a bobcat comes out of the mangrove forest, grabs a coot from the shoreline and returns with breakfast in his jaws. In late afternoon our bird count results are: 149 species for Mazatlan, 90 for the side trip to Villa Blanca and 279 for the whole trip thus far.

(Shari) Just as if I have done this all my life, I flag down the bus that takes us into town. Pat is going shopping with me today. We can take any bus into town and the Central or Juarez bus out of town. The cost is 3 pesos each way. We get off at the craft area and peruse the shops there. We decide to walk down the street to the small market that Jan and I visited yesterday and beyond. The stuff is beginning to look the same; it must be time to move on. Our travel meeting is early (1399 bytes) As the birders do the count down, taking almost an hour, us SOB's start on the snacks. Like kids trying to be quiet in gym class, we periodically get dirty looks from the birders who are trying to hear Jerry as he calls off the birds. We then are accused of eating all the snacks. After the meeting, we do e-mail, get gas for the car, get money - AGAIN - for our pockets, and get groceries for the fridge. The Mexicano Mercado is not far from Sam's, and is a very modern grocery/everything store. The bakery and produce sections are especially nice. Picking up one of the circular trays and tongs on the counter, I lay 2 pineapple Danish, 2 bonuelos, 2 cookies, 4 hamburger buns, 2 filled donuts and a big fried cinnamon sugar cookie on it. I then take it to a lady behind the counter who wraps, bags and prices it. I pick up some flour for John - I think it is flour anyway - and some Pepsi for Pat and Lee. The Pepsi is an easy call but the flour is iffy; it could turn our to be sugar. In Spanish, the bag reads "for use making pizza, tortillas, bread and pastries." Those were the only words on the bag that I could read. We also find some of those lime-roasted peanuts that are so tasty. The checkout counter is clear at the back of the store and to exit we must go through a mall before entering the parking lot. It is a long way to carry our heavy bags. A guard stands by the door ensuring that no carts leave the store. Other guards carrying guns and rifles walk around the store as if they are after a fugitive. It makes for a nervous shopping trip. Arriving home, I clean all the produce by filling the sink with water and adding a tablespoon of bleach. After soaking 5 minutes, I rinse and dry the stuff before bagging and putting it in the fridge. Dinner tonight is the roasted chicken that Jim brought us yesterday. It is tasty and comes with a dozen corn tortillas and two bags of salsa.

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