Sunday, June 12, 2016

Latin Waterman Locale #472: Analyzing Pluma Hidalgo, Oaxaca

Population 3050 country folks and 4200 feet up off the pacific coast

Just spent a week in Pluma Hidalgo, a small coffee production oriented town just 25 miles off the pacific ocean coast in Oaxaca state. It nestles in super steep terrain on the ocean facing slopes of the southern sierra range. Cloud forest country often bathed in mists and fogs as it rises up the mountains. From here the awesome southern sierra rises onwards to over 12000 foot heights before dropping off into the oaxacan central valleys inland to the north.

The little town square where nothing really happens until Sunday market day.

My criteria for a good workable waterman town down here is centered mostly around cool weather with few bugs.... mostly to please my wife, who refuses to live down on a hot, muggy coast. Pluma offers the ocean 45 minutes, and about 25 miles, down a steep, curvy (marginal!) paved road yet has very cool nights and pleasant days up at 4200 feet. Night sleeping often required a blanket for me.

And nicely off the standard gringo runs down at Bahias Huatulco on the coast. There are just 6 other gringos living here, 3 married couples. Authentic, small town atmosphere and a chance to fit in if you choose to participate. But with the option a relatively quick run down to the very developed Bahias Huatulco tourist zone for shopping in full sized grocery-department stores (a Soriana), artisan international dining, and playing on the coast. Many of the bays are still undeveloped and offer great skin diving, small beach cruiser style sailing, and, of course, epic point and sandbar surfing breaks up and down this coast.

Coastal clouds collide with rising mountain slopes: cloud forest terrain.

I rented a huge, one room apartment (no kitchen) for 2500 pesos a month, or about $139 U.S., and everything was included except internet. I'd run into a missionary couple who befriended me and introduced me to the town doctors wife, who was active with the missionarys wife in a local ministry. The artists currently living in the room were leaving in a week so I lined it out for June.

Here's a video I shot of the apartment and the view off the back porch. The whole town is one big tangle of steep streets and pedestrian trails. Sitting on the back porch was like a constant people show and I counted 51 houses in line-of-sight. The mists would come and go all day and night, often so foggy you could only see about 100 feet.

The locals are pretty friendly overall. Some outright gregarious and others the classic country reticence but, overall, no racial resentment I could fathom. The usual tiny contingent of town drunks, a couple of village simpletons, roguish romeos, proud oldsters, etc. you'd expect in a tiny town of 3050 folks. It is surrounded by small coffee farms and ranches. These folks come into town on the weekends, as do local farmers, and a fair bit of trade occurs. Otherwise it is super sleepy, overall.

Good hiking about and often in cool mists.....

The kind of place your standard yank needs a pursuit to stay busy with because a side effect of such a tiny burg is BOREDOM. Missionaries Frank and Marilu are busy with the lords work and are 80 and 70 years old. Another expat couple in their 60s have a wood shop at their house. A young couple are just making it economically and just had a set of twins born to complement 2 other kids. What they do to stay busy I do not know.

Drive SLOWLY and CAREFULLY in the sierra.....

I thought the road to the coast would be a piece of cake. It is NOT. Check out a google earth view of the area to see how squiggly the road line is: a serious drop in just 16 miles down to Santa Maria Huatulco, a very old, somewhat inland town that you then pass through (poor signage and easy to get lost but thankfully small) to get on out to highway 200, the coast road. From there you pass the Huatulco International airport and another 5 miles or so you're in the Bahias Huatulco developed zone. I drove it twice and each time it took me a bit less than a hour to hit highway 200. Mexican roads require full on concentration: pot holes, washouts, suspension busting speed bumps, cattle and goats in the road suddenly, a felled tree...... whatever.

No joke...... be ready for ANYTHING on sierra roads.....

Here's the rub, for me anyway:  despite its awesome charm I found it CLAUSTROPHOBIC.  Despite being able to look down the valley and actually SEE the pacific ocean on clear days (a simply stunningly beautiful sight) I felt hemmed in and way too far off the ocean to just do waterman things on a lark. No afternoon fishing sessions, no spontaneous surfing go-outs with friends stopping by, no daysailing session when it is just perfect conditions for a afternoon. And the clouds sock in with fog often for HOURS at a time and everything is damp, soggy (but refreshingly cool), and grey. Having a business in the sierra would be problematic supplies wise but do-able.

Selfie from a trail above Pluma, looking back down to it....

For me a realization it's living right on the coast, or, better yet, on a boat. For someone else though maybe a AWESOME place to live. Super tranquil, low crime, amiable locals to enjoy the culture with, cool climate overall, lots of cheap organic food grown locally, relatively close to the coast and international airport for good dining and supplies, and very, very beautiful setting. Oh...... way cheap houses to buy too.... for now. The housing market could go either way but I suspect HUGE bargains once the bubble pops (and it cometh right soon, brothers and sisters.... AMEN).

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Killer Gringo-Burger in the High Sierra

Ecstatic to find a great hamburger at 8000 feet up....

Finding a good burger down here is tough. Finding one on the high sierra road down to the pac coast is even tougher. But glory be.... in the little high pine forest village of La Venta exists "Gringo Burger", run by 2 Wyoming expats who live farther up the slope. I'd heard of it so finally stopped in.

Love my 88 one tonner with 350 V8.....

A easy pull off hwy 175 and sure enough some alto grasa (high fat) offerings to make a expat yankee explode in cardio-seizure joy. Of course I got the house burger: the GRINGO BURGER. 

A 1/4 pound of local beef, smothered in cheese, a healthy helping of tocino (bacon) and finally a massive dollop of sloppy joe mix seasoned nicely. Mayo, lettuce, sliced onions. 

Fries didn't come with the burger.... odd. So I ordered a side of the hand cut babies that were advertised as being lovingly fried in cerdo grease (pig fat.... oh yeah.... a muslim terrorist bomb to be sure). Turns out the fries could have easily fed me and T both. Good fries are tough to come by down here too.....

Yeah.... gringo prices too but way cheaper than the USSA....  about 7 bucks all in.

OK then.... back on the road and I was off to the races with fluttering heart. Some parts of the road are above 9000 feet and actually chilly at mid day and a few hours later you're sweating your cojones off on the coast. Amazing country really.