Got a few spare hours?

8 Jan

Hi folks, hope everyone had a very good Christmas and an excellent start to the New Year. We certainly did, but I still find it a little difficult to get used to not being with my kids and their growing families, not to mention the warm, sunny weather as opposed to the cold, wet and occasionally snowy crap we always got at home. There may not be a lot of Christmas decorations, lights or fir trees, but we sure do eat well. There seems to be a party just about every other day from the middle of December until February 2nd when the Mexicans officially call Christmas over. Made staying on my diet a really hard proposition, but I persevered!


Just another gorgeous Sunrise over the holidays

I’ve talked a lot about the view here, the festivals, the hikes, the fishing, the social activities, even the political landscape, but I don’t think I’ve explained what it’s actually like to physically function here.


How long does it take you to do the laundry, or go grocery shopping for example?


For the laundry, when I’m at home it takes a little over an hour to wash and dry a load or 30 minutes to wash and then however long it takes to hang it on a line, plus I can program the washing machine to add an extra rinse if I want.  Here, if you’re very lucky, it can take the same amount of time but more likely, it will take all day, sometimes 2. Here’s how. There are 4 places I can do my laundry, five, if I include washing it by hand, which means using up a lot of water in the tanks, wringing it out, then hanging it on the line. I can take my laundry to Puerto Escondido and, using their washing machines, I can do my own wash, for 33 pesos a load. Now I can’t dry my laundry there, (most of the time I prefer to dry it on a line anyways, but not always) as they have no propane, which heats the dryers. That means that there’s no hot water either, none for the wash and none for the showers that are available for 10 pesos.


Think about that for a minute, if you will. You can pay 10 pesos and have a cold shower. When they have propane, you can pay 20 pesos and have a hot shower, it all depends on if they have enough money to pay the fuel bills.  Lately, the Pemex hasn’t had any gasoline because the management running the Marina hasn’t been able to pay it’s bills, but that’s another story, back to the laundry.


One of many beach parties held over the holidays

The problem with the Puerto Escondido’s 3 machines is that they are small, used by a very large group of individuals and probably haven’t been cleaned since the day they were installed. They don’t clean very well if you try to wash a large load and they don’t rinse worth shit, nor can you personalize the program. This means that you wash more, smaller loads and some clothes need to be rinsed again when you get back to the camper. So you spend more money, you waste more water and if it takes too long, remembering that the staff doesn’t unlock the laundry room doors until sometime between 9 and 9:30 AM, and that you might have to wait in line for a machine, by the time the wash goes on the line, there may not be enough time for it to dry before the evening sets in.


The next option is to take it to Tripui Hotel, just down the road, where for 50 pesos a load, they will wash and, most of the time, dry your clothes, but the service is haphazard at best and you don’t get your clothes back until the next day.  Nothing like getting a bag of damp clothes back 24 hours after they’ve been washed!


Next, is the Juncolito option, a village about 3 kilometers north of us. If you can get your wash over to the village, then into the hands of Mr. Torres’ daughter, (Mr. Torres runs one of the original guided fishing outfits in the area and is very well known) she will wash it, dry it, fold and bag it for 50 pesos a load but again it won’t be ready until tomorrow. Since the village is too far to walk carrying a large load of laundry, this entails 2 car trips, 1 to drop it off, another to pick up as there is little traffic between the village and our beach.


The New Years Eve Soup party. An interesting concept, everyone brings their best soup!

Or you can send it into town to Elizabeth; she runs a Lavaderia or laundry in Loreto, about 25 kilometers away. On average, someone from the beach is driving into town for various reasons, every day, so everyone just checks in with Elizabeth as a matter of course. If Liz knows they’re from Rattlesnake Beach, she will hand over any and all bags due to go out to the campers. The charge is 50 pesos a load and the wash is ready the next day. The service includes wash, dry, fold and bag. However, if no one is going into town when your laundry is ready, you have to make a special trip in just to pick it up. This can entail blowing 2 entire days.


Now I have to say that the ladies who do the laundry service do an excellent job and there is something special about getting your clothes washed, dried and beautifully folded. They can even fold fitted sheets so well you could put them back into the package they came out of, but they all seem to use only the hottest setting on the dryers and consequently your wardrobe takes quite a beating.


Not a big deal, I’m sure you’re thinking, and it’s not, taken in isolation, but combined with everything else, it gives you a better idea of what it’s like to live here in Baja.


If you shop like my eldest daughter, then Baja won’t hold any challenges, but if you’re used to going to one grocery store for all your shopping needs than it’s going to come as a shock to you when you go looking to complete your list.


Imagine a shopping list:


Skim milk

Feta cheese

Romaine lettuce


Paper Towel

Vitamin D


Now that seems simple enough doesn’t it? Nah, not down here. First forget the Vitamin D, right off the bat. None of the food stores carry anything like that. They might have a Pharmacy in them but it only carries pharmaceuticals that are suitable for common aliments, no vitamins. So then you head off to one of the larger Pharmacias, and if they do have Vitamin D it’s in a cosmetic form suitable only for rubbing on your skin or combined with other things. Now Loreto does have a new Health Food store and I do intend to try there, but every time I go in, it’s closed and it’s hours and mine never seem to correspond.


The bacon down here is in a word, awesome! The bulk stuff is thick cut, well smoked and very lean, but you can only find it in 2 stores and they don’t always have it. Sure you can get packaged stuff, just like the crap we get at home, but the bulk stuff it so very much better and a whole kilo of it will cost you 70 pesos. The commercial stuff is

sold under the name of FUD, costs twice the amount of the bulk bacon and is thin, fatty and virtually tasteless! Which would you prefer? So, if you’re looking for good bacon you may end up having to go to both of the stores that have it to find some and these stores may not necessarily have anything else on your list.


One of the stores that might carry almost everything is called El Pescador, though it’s the most expensive place for groceries as it’s geared mostly to the Gringo tourist trade. When we’re looking for Cocoa and our favourite breakfast cereal, this is the only place we can find them, plus they sell bulk bacon. It automatically becomes one of our stops when we go shopping and they do carry the paper towels we use, though not always, so we buy it when we see it.


The Feta comes from only 2 places; one is the Modelorama, a store just where our dirt road to the beach meets the pavement. Fernando and his wife Lorraina, a lovely, friendly couple run it and they go out of their way to supply all the strange stuff that the Gringos seem to need, not to mention beer. Fernando makes a trip to La Paz twice a month to search out the exotic stuff for us. It does however cost a fair bit more as this is a convenience store. The only other place to get it is in Loreto at a store called Dali’s, a high-end store that caters to the Gringo crowd and the restaurant trade. (I should mention that there are no wholesalers as such in Baja, there is a Sam’s Clubs and Costco, but that’s as close to a true wholesaler as one can get here)


Are you starting to get my drift? Grocery shopping even for a small list can include 6 or 7 stops and if you’re really lucky you might actually get everything, but it’s doubtful. We consider it a great accomplishment when we’ve actually managed to procure everything we set out to get. Some friends on the beach told us that on a recent trip into Loreto they ended up making 27 different stops. Sure they were trying to deal with a couple of government agents and the bank, but still, they considered that fairly normal, since it also included grocery shopping.


There are a couple of other stores that we always stop at; it’s pretty obvious, since we’ve run into restaurant owners at one of them that this is a good place for produce, sushi supplies and other esoteric products. Their prices are pretty good and they carry meat and have an interesting liquor supply, but again sometime their produce looks like it’s been there for weeks and they don’t seem to ever have butter. So the fruit and vegetables may have to wait until Sundays when the Farmers Market is open.


As to the eggs, well, this is something special actually, because you can get eggs in every store and you can buy 1 if that’s all you really need, or 200, your choice.

Milk is also available just about everywhere and in infinitely more variety than we see at home, not to mention that it’s cheap! My favorite part is that all of it is available in 1 Litre Tetra packs, as well as ready to use plastic jugs and in powdered form. The Tetra packs are great for travelling, and I make sure I’ve got at least 3 or 4 on hand just in case we run out of milk while on the road. These babies last for just about forever and since I take milk in my coffee, I never have to worry about not being able to enjoy a cup while we’re in the middle of nowhere and miles from the nearest store.


So there you have it, a list with 7 items on it and I only had to make 6 or 7 stops, not including the Sunday market to get 6 of them. I’m still working on the Vitamin D.


Ah well, it’s not like we’ve got anything better to do with our time and it means that when you’re  in Baja, you just have to slow down a bit and enjoy the scenery, cause you’re going to be seeing a lot of it!





6 Responses to “Got a few spare hours?”

  1. Anne January 8, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    he he I kinda know what you were talking about. It was like that on Crete too. You had to visit at least 4 or five stores to get everything you need and sometimes had to go back in the next day. Also if you needed something a little more unusual you might have to go to Agios Nicholas. to get it. Your story brought back memories, thank you.

  2. Forest Gefroh January 9, 2012 at 4:24 am #

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  3. Michelle January 21, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    Very informative, thankyou!

  4. Mari March 15, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    Great blog and awesome pics! But i was left wondering why the need of vitamin D when the sun shines there all the time. 20 mins a day of sunshine gives you more than enough of what one needs. Are you a pbc’er? If so how do you manage getting your meds? Or alternately, taking enough with you when you go.

    • Alexis Thuillier March 19, 2012 at 10:20 am #

      Mari, I am a PCB’er and my liver doesn’t make enough Vitamin D for me even down here. I take 4000IU’s everyday and when I ran out last month, even though I spend a lot of time out in the sun, I could fell my energy levels decline. As for my Urso, I take enough with me to last the entire time I’m here.

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