Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Mexican Vagabonds' Adventures Continue - October 2010 Newsletter

Yes, you guessed it, the crew of the late sailing ship “Pipe Dream” will attempt to bring you up to date with another action packed newsletter. Sorry about the 5 month lag between newsletters but we’re much too busy in retirement to write on a regular basis!

For those of you, who have not reached the age of dementia, bear with me while I give the other readers a recap of my last newsletter. In our last update Jutta and I sold Pipe Dream, and had just returned to Mexico after our Colombian exploration.

If you don’t recognize the names Ferdy, Jutta or Pipe Dream, remember this: Always start the morning with a baby aspirin and a fresh “Depends”, enema at three, and cocktail time is still at 5:00 PM.

Meanwhile, Jutta has taken up photography and I started painting acrylics (I’m thinking about cutting off an ear like that other guy, old what’s his name?). Our social life is busting at the seams and we still keep running out of time.

Over a gourmet dinner and several bottles of good wine at our friends’ Bruce and Alan’s home we made the
 decision to take a trip to Puerto Vallarta.


Bruce and Ferdy

 Remember, we had been gone from Mexico for six months and after two weeks back it was time to travel again! Go figure? Jutta and I spent lots of time in PV while we were on the boat but this time we played tourist and stayed at a nice hotel right above the surf. Bruce and Alan are a kick to travel with and we all had a splendid time.

View from our Hotel in Puerto Vallarta

I would say things were back to normal but for the nutty crew of Pipe Dream our life is anything but normal. As far as refinement is concerned, I have made great progress. I use a napkin now and don’t wipe my hands on my pants any more. I wear shoes most of the time and don’t belch at parties, etc. What do you expect from a country boy from Yuma, Arizona? I always considered myself a “common-sewer” of finer things. In June Jutta continued my refinement and bought tickets for the Guadalajara Philharmonic Orchestra presentation of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. I didn’t even know there were another eight! I hate to admit it, it was an enjoyable weekend in Guadalajara, but we had to beat it back home to Ajijic for the first of many visitors coming to see us this summer.

The party animals Katryn and Amanda arrived in June from Los Angeles. These two beautiful young women are slim and trim but they are eating machines. They can wipe out a refrigerator faster than a football team at an “all you can eat buffet”. The Beer and Tequila flowed like water that week, not just at our house but also at a few of our friends’ places!

Kat and Amanda

Our next venture was a kitchen remodel. We demolished the kitchen, tore out walls, added new cabinets, new appliances, dragon red granite countertops and, of course, a large wine rack. Then we refinished all the saltillo tile floors downstairs, changed out the propane tank and replaced all the gas lines. We lived in the Casa de Polvo (house of dust) for six weeks. It was well worth it. We now have the most beautiful kitchen and we love it. Not bad for living in a third world country! Again, we had to scramble to finish because our next visitors were on the approach.

Old Kitchen

Poco a poco a new kitchen emerges....

Voila! The new kitchen is ready.

In mid August Jutta’s sister Connie and her husband Otto came over from Germany for three weeks. After they recovered from a three-day bout of Montezuma’s Revenge, we fired up the “Yellow Bird”, our bright yellow Nissan X-Terra, and toured the states of Michoacan, Jalisco, and Colima.

"Dance of the Old Men" at the Plaza in Morelia

Conny and Otto in Tlaquepaque

Good local food at the Mercado in Patzcuaro - except our visitors wouldn't touch it!

Pottery at the Mercado in Tzintzuntzan

Hiking to the village demolished by the volcano Paricutin

The Water Park in Uruapan

Water everywhere at the Water Park in Uruapan
Our travels culminated for a few days of beach rest in Barra de Navidad on the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, a tropical wave was surging over the area creating huge waves in the bay. For some reason Connie had this compelling need to swim in the Pacific Ocean before returning to Germany. The first wave hit her and her bikini top was wrapped around her neck when she came up. What a show stopper! The Mexican beach vendors loved it.

Enjoying fresh Seafood in Barra de Navidad

Barra de Navidad with Melaque in the distance

Finally, a cold Corona at the Beach!

My sister even learned to drink beer from a bottle!

Mexico was quite a change for them coming from Europe. They left with a new perspective of Mexico.

Jutta and I had three days to clean up for our next visitors from Chicago. This visit brought some smiles to grandma because her son and daughter-in-law came with the two and only grandchildren. (I’m not old enough to have grandchildren!)

Rachel, Travis, Jordan, and Brian

Jordan and Ferdy


 Brian, Rachel and the kids stayed for 10 days and the time just flew by. We really enjoyed their visit and Jordan and Travis were loads of fun. Their visit coincided with the two hundredth anniversary of Mexican Independence. There were parades, balloon races, and festivities of all kinds. We really missed them after they left, the house was far too quiet.
Rider at the Independence Day Festivities
Balloon Fest

Rider at the Independence Day Parade

On the Malecon (Lakeside Promenade) in Chapala

Fireworks at the 16th September Independence Celebration

Our next adventure was a trip to Boston for the most incredible wedding we ever attended. Maggie, the daughter of Jutta’s old friends Pat and Carolyn got married. Initially, Jutta didn’t want to go because she needed to schedule a long needed bunion surgery on her foot. Fortunately, Carolyn convinced her to postpone the surgery.
Jutta and Carolyn

Maggie and her Dad Pat

Ferdy and Jutta at the Wedding

Jutta's son Brandon with wife Susan

Jutta's son Brian with wife Rachel
Jutta's daughter Kat dancing with PJ

 We flew to Los Angeles to visit Brandon, Susan, and Katryn for a week, then flew on to Boston for the wedding. What a party it was! Jutta ignored her foot, donned a pair of flip-flops (the only type of shoes she could fin into) and we danced all night.

Things are pretty dull around here because Jutta had her foot surgery. It seems that she developed the foot problem after kicking me in the ass for the last ten years. It serves her right, you can’t teach an old goat new tricks. It looks like she will be hobbling around for the next month. It’s ok, that will give me some bonding time with my daughter Jody who arrives in three days for a week’s visit.

We are planning on renting out our house again between January and March next year because we want to travel through South East Asia.

With all these things going, you can see how finances can get very tight. If all of you receiving this newsletter would send money to the “Help Ferdy Keep the Party Going” charity, it would really help. Imagine what a wonderful thing it could be having a “little Ferdy” as a dependent and tax write-off! Maybe then, Jutta would stop kicking me! We miss you all!

Saludos from the Shores of Lake Chapala
 Rico Mondongo and Carlota Menudo

Musicians on a Puerto Vallarta Street
View from our Hotel in Puerto Vallarta

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Don't Pay The Ransom, We Made It Back Alive! - Pipe Dream's June 2010 Newsletter

You can’t get rid of us that easy! Jutta and I are back to share our hum-drum life of retirement. In our last newsletter (December 2009), we had just sold our boat and were spending the Christmas holidays in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina with Paul and Frances.

 For those of you elderly readers who can’t remember who those crazy vagabonds Ferdy and Jutta are, let me give you some guide lines to help you stave off dementia: One baby aspirin in the morning, always start a new day with a fresh “Depends”, enema at three, and cocktail time is still at 5:00 PM. Sorry it’s been so long since the last newsletter.

January 2010 started with a bang. We had sold the boat, our home on the ocean for nine years. Our house in Mexico was rented out until April 2010. It all of a sudden struck us that we were homeless. We had considered sleeping behind a “Seven/Eleven” but we couldn’t find enough cardboard for a bed and Florida was experiencing a very cold winter. Our next choice was to suck off friends and family for a while. Paul and Frances were very generous and put up with us for quite some time. In the dead of winter, Jutta took off for Germany to visit her mother, brother, and sister.
Jutta's Sister on a cold January Day

 I was a lot smarter and flew to Arizona like most of the “snow birds” for a visit with my brother, sister and my two children.

Ryan and Jody

Jutta and I rendezvoused in Orlando at the end of January. For those of you living in Yuma, Arizona, Orlando is the city in Florida where small screaming children go to “Disney World”. It was time to store our trusty “Yellow Bird” (caution yellow Nissan X-terra), pack our backpacks and climb on a big iron bird to visit Juan Valdez.

 Yes, the zany crew of Pipe Dream was off to Colombia.

At the Gold Museum in Bogota

The Plaza Mayor in Bogota

A Bird's Eye View of Bogota from Monserrate Peak at 3152 Meters

We flew into Bogotá for a six-week adventure through Colombia. Jutta and I explored the enormous city perched high in the Andes at 8580 feet for a few days before grabbing a chicken bus to tour the country.

Street Scene in Villa de Leyva

The Plaza Mayor of Villa de Leyva - largest Plaza in all South America

A side trip to the Convento Santo Ecce Homo
Founded by the Dominicans in 1620

We found Colombia to be one of the most rugged countries we had ever traveled. There are only two main highways connecting Ecuador and the interior of Colombia with the Caribbean coast. Those highways are two lane roads that run through the wildest canyons and mountain ranges I have seen. They are heavily traveled by double trailer semis and commercial trucks which brings traffic down to about 20 miles an hour

Ready for a "Fun Cruise" on a Chiva?

Roads of Colombia

 Our bus drivers raced at about 40 MPH or as fast as one could drive in the left lane passing lines of cars.
During the entire 11 hour trip, he drove with one hand on the wheel while chatting continuously on his cell phone. You learn in a hurry two all important things: Never look at the tires before getting on the bus, and never look out the front window while traveling. In Colombia you also don’t want to look out of the side windows into thousand foot drop-offs while screeching around a sharp corner. A local woman sitting across from us kept making the sign of the cross which gave us a lot of confidence.

Barbecue anyone?

I never turn down a hike through the country side......

......much to Ferdy's chagrin!

After all this hiking - is it Viagra or Goat's Milk?

Note the age of our travel companions!

 After eleven hours of being tossed about on a worn bus seat, we were glad to finally arrive in the port city of Santa Marta.

Colombian "Freeway"

Santa Marta Street Scene

Santa Marta Water Front

Santa Marta Garbage Truck

We hung out in the tranquil fishing village of Taganga for a week, then re-visited the beautiful colonial port of Cartagena where we had spent a memorable few days in 2003 with our friends Bob and Tish.

The small Fishing Village of Taganga

Careful, don't cut too close!!

Best part of Colombia - freshly squeezed fruit juices

Sunset over Taganga

There is always time for a card game

Street Scene in Cartagena

Revisiting Cartagena

Our next leg was back south to Medellin. Our travel guide showed a 14 hour bus ride. We looked at each other and decided – no way! After a very pleasant one hour flight we arrived in the fascinating city of Medellin – the former world drug capital. Medellin sits in a narrow canyon with high rise buildings sprawling up the steep flanks of the surrounding mountains.

Coming into the valley of Medellin from the airport


Medellin - City of Botero

Enjoying the Night Life in Medellin

 We thoroughly enjoyed the city, then moved on to the coffee region. One of the highlights of our trip was to relax for a few days at a working coffee finca (farm). In contrast to the dry country side between Bogota and the coast, the coffee region is so lush and green, it almost hurts your eyes. We learned all about coffee and drank the best java ever.

The Guest House and Pool at the Coffee Finca
Our Hike on the Finca turned out a little wet

Monarch Butterflies

Coffee Finca Venecia

To complete our circle, we had to get back to Bogota. The prospect of another teeth-grinding ten-hour bus ride was scrapped in a hurry and we opted for a 45 minute flight instead. This gave us time to enjoy the city for a few more days before heading back to Orlando.

Colombia is still fairly inexpensive and the people are extremely friendly. We had people stop us on the street and thank us for visiting their country. They would ask us to tell our friends that Colombia is now safe for tourists. When we were in Cartagena in 2003 it was too dangerous to travel into the interior. If you are an adventurous traveler, Colombia is a great country to visit.

Once we arrived back in Florida, Paul and Frances put up with us for another week while we packed our car for our journey back to Mexico.

 We love being back in our little village. Our life is “Muy Tranquilo”. Jutta is out back shoeing the mules and I’m swatt’n flies on the porch. To keep things stirred up and fight down the boredom we are in the middle of a kitchen remodel. “We love the dust”! There is always something going on in our lives.

Thanks to everyone for putting aside some kidnap money for our safe return from Colombia. Since there was no need to pay the ransom I really feel you should send the money to the “Help Ferdy and Jutta Live the High Life Fund”. You can always claim us as dependents on your income tax.
Adios from the shores of Lake Chapala.
Rico Mondongo and Carlota Enchilada
PS. If you would like to see more photos of our trip to Colombia, check out the following link: