With our normally warm Baja weather not being so warm, I started researching other areas that we could bird and be warmer whilst doing it. After much research, we selected San Blas, Nayerit, MX for our next birding adventure. However, I was a little concerned about the continued mention of jejenes.
San Blas is a friendly town and is nestled amongst mangrove forests about half way between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. It has very little foreign influence. With a population of about 10,000, it is very relaxed and kick back and not many tourists are seen.
There is an existing sewer system but still, no paper in the toilet! We were warned to wash all fruits and veggies in Microdyn, which we did. We also drank and brushed our teeth with bottled water.
We stayed at Casa Roxanna which was clean, comfortable and economical. The help and the owners Louis and Kent were extra friendly and very helpful. The property consists of 9 large bungalows and a nice pool amongst a beautiful serene garden setting. We would stay there again in a minute.
But, I must tell you, Casa Roxaanna has absolutely the best location location location in San Blas, hands down. After all, it’s right next to the best darn panadoria we’ve (yep, i’m gonna speak for Chris here too) ever been in in Mexico. It wasn’t stylish like the one in downtown San Jose del Cabo, which is also delice, but just a plain old get down and bake bakery with trays upon trays of yummy donuts precariously piled on top of the numerous huge flour bags on the floor. I figured wow, this must be a busy place! Sure enough, they delivered to seemingly every store in San Blas and maybe outside of San Blas. I don’t know but…you get the picture. La Princessa…panadoria San Blas. Don’t miss it.
San Blas is a quiet town with the exception of the Great-tailed Grackles in the main square and the local padre. Yes….the local padre. I did promise more about the local padre, didn’t I? (see my previous blog)
The first night we were there, we were awoken from a sound sleep by what sounded like fireworks. Biig fireworks! We finally got used to them as the night wore on but we were in hopes that this was not an every night occurrence as we had to be up by 5AM every morning.
When Mark gathered us the next morning, we asked him what the heck it could have been. He then told us the padre of the local (or, is that loco?) church was a pyromaniac and sets off bottle rockets for nearly any occasion, day or night. I won’t tell you what he said exactly but, you get the picture. Sure thing, next night, same thing! And, if it wasn’t the bottle rockets it was the church bell clanging at all hours during the night and early morning. We finally got used to it and we now consider it a very big part of our stay in San Blas. We laugh every time we think of it. Awwwwwwe. Another memory that makes me smile.
There are many shops along the narrow (worse than Los Barriles) cobblestone streets and most everyone sells something different than the other. Most all needs can be met but guaranteed… there is no WalMart in San Blas! Compared to Baja, it is quite inexpensive and the language is slightly different. You really need to roll your r’s when speaking Spanish or they look at you like, huh?…even if you say the correct word.
During our adventures, which took us through mangrove estuaries, jungle and forest, we passed through very few villages. We found it humorous that there were so many machete carrying men walking alongside the roads. Well, think about it?! When you live in the jungle, you carry a machete! So….no worries. We always felt safe wherever we were as the people were so very friendly. Not much English is spoken by the locals.
We never did make it to the beach but heard it was beautiful with several huts, restaurants, etc. The weather was great, with highs in the mid 80’s but chilly in the morning and evenings. There was a continuous haze in the air that made it difficult for great shots of the birds but we still managed to get a few (imagine that!). One day was pretty cloudy but no rain in sight as it was the dry season.
There were few mosquitos but the jejenes (no see ums with teeth) ..let me tell you about the jejenes… I had and still have bites all over my hands, arms and legs. Now, please keep in mind that I wore socks, long pants, long sleeve shirts and had on mosquito, fly, insect and tick repellent. I will tell you…there is no way to stop the jejenes from biting you. They are especially bad at dawn and dusk. Of course, they didn’t bother Chris much at all. If they dared take a bite, they left quickly and told their friends to stay away. My very macho man wanted me to say that… 🙂
I’ll share with you this useful information. I was itching so badly that it was really really hard not to scratch. I of course GOOGLE’d my problem and ran into an article where this guy was talking about his 88 year old grandmother that swore Listerine helped with the itch and……she is right!
Our San Blas birding adventure was dirty, dusty, bumpy, isolated, rugged, safe, beautiful and seven days of tough fun with an excellent guide, Mark Stackhouse. Mark guided us tirelessly and superbly from 5AM until sometimes 8PM with maybe an hour or two break for six days straight. His knowledge of birds is phenomenal.
We found out we had just missed James Currie, the host of the TV show “Birding Adventures” in San Blas. The episodes with Mark and of course the stars of the show, the birds, airs April 8th or so, 2013 (I’m trying to verify this with James now. Heard back but still unclear so I can’t tell you for sure).
We had the opportunity to see between 200 and 300 species of birds in and around San Blas. This is a very bird rich area. In just a short distance of the town of San Blas, we found a variety of habitats including higher mountains, lowlands, mangrove estuaries, forest, jungle and of course, the Pacific Ocean.
We took over 3500 photographs and after editing, kept around 400, adding nearly 100 new birds to our photo collections. Many more were seen and heard but we did not get a clear shot or did not see them at all. Mark would be sounding out the names of all the birds he was hearing as we were trying to focus and photograph only one. He does not necessarily look for the birds…he listens to the birds. It really was incredible. At times I would find myself getting a little frustrated and then I thought of how lucky Chris and I were to be amongst such beauty. A smile would overcome me as I tried harder to focus and get that “just right” shot.
28 Feb, 2013
Our MagniCharter flight was delayed about an hour out of San Jose del Cabo, MX (SJD). We had a quick 40 minute flight to Mazatlan on a 727, MX (MZT) where Francisco, the local bicycle repairman and our taxi to San Blas was waiting for us, with a big grin. A most gracious, accommodating and funny man he is. The drive south was about 3.5-4 hours.
We stopped at one of Francisco’s favorite restaurants just outside Mazatlan for camerones diablo and enchiladas. Superb. Continuing on to San Blas, we saw field after field of mangos, papayas, bananas and more. You would see cattle every once in a while and then the scene would go back to more agriculture.
Near the larger cities, you would find sombra after sombra where hopeful people sell camerones. We just couldn’t figure out why we didn’t see any refrigeration, ice chests, nada for coolness for the shrimp. Come to find out, they were all selling dehydrated shrimp. We didn’t try any.
We went through 3 toll booths. Fees were 88, 90 and 186 pesos. I must say, the roads were pretty darn nice. I did find it funny that, well….you see the picture on the left? Both of the right lanes you see are for just that…the right lane drivers. Note that the one on the far left is wider than the other. The far right lane is for you to get your a.. over when someone comes up behind you and wants to pass! This was obviously well known by most all the other vehicles seen on the highway during the drive. I kind of liked the idea myself!
Francisco stopped for gas and of course, knew everyone at the station. Chris and I get out and stretch a bit (necessario these days) and see grackles. We smile at each other as we know we are getting close……to the birds of San Blas.
We rolled into San Blas around 4 or 5 in the evening, just in time for the jejenes massacre, Debbie only.
River San Cristobal, beautiful and teaming w/birds.
Matachen, new road to nowhere. Beautiful sunset, light fades fast. Lots of birds.
Pizza for dinner, delivered, was good for MX pizza but not as good as my honey’s!
Rumored local padre of the church, pyromaniac.. Shooting off rockets. Rockets in the middle of night…every night?
AM. Chacalilla, not too many birds was windy. Romans chicken for lunch, was grt. Wanting veggies. Only Chris in PM. Got lots of new birds up mangrove road. Debbie went shopping for veggies. Left over chicken, rice and salad! For dinner.
AM. Singayta jungle, squirl cuckoo, many birds, lunch with Mark and Ellie and backyard birded into PM, Chris and Mark to sewer plant, sora and lineated woodpecker and biiiig turtles. Left over pizza for dinner.
Tepic area. Sierra de San Juan. Birded all day. Wonderful day in the mnts. Finished the day photoing mm’s (Military McCaws) and saw pair of bat falcon. Abs fantastic !! Dinner at Ofinos w/M n E n D
Tecuitata, coffee farm w Daniel and Martha, elegant n citrolin T’s (Trogans)! Lucy’s in Aticama for lunch, pozole de pollo especial (this was sooooo awesome!). Excellent! San cristobal estero. Awesome! Another boat ride to La Trovara. Potoo’s in the dark!
Can it get any better?
AM, can’t call in any birds in most of morning. Did see MX hermit hummer lec, PM. Went hunting for painted bunting (saw but tough photo), bl thrtd magpie jays, el trogans (heard). Fragrance of mango blossoms in the air.
The visit to the coffee farm Capulin was extremely interesting as Daniel, one of the owners, gave us a great tour and is so very proud of what he does and as well he should be. His wife Martha was gracious as well. And the coffee…..OH! the coffee!!! Needless to say, we brought some home!
All in all, seven days of beautiful birds, great scenery, great camaraderie with Mark and many more memories from our birding adventures.
I still think I hear the church bells clanging? Nope. Just the chimes next door. But, oh what a great memory they bring. I smile.
Note: We are still working on getting the bird photos up. Stay tuned!