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Old 03-27-2013, 04:58 PM   #23
camitzi OP
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Joined: Feb 2013
Location: Vancouver BC
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To Ventanilla y Villahermosa

Things are not always coming along the way we plan them. We left Puerto Escondido to go to Playa Escobilla the next day. And on the way we see these cool guys going surfing. They were awesome!



Nice support for the surf boards

We barely made about 5 km when the traffic stopped. We asked people what was going on, and we found out there was a road block due to some demonstrations of the teachers and teachers' union. We got different answers as to how long it would last: till 6pm, 4pm, 2 hours, whole day. We decided that we did not want to stay in that heat not even for 2 hours, so we went back to our hotel in Puerto Escondido, and jumped in the pool. And now people are telling us that it could actually take the whole week if they don't get what they want. We will have to make a phone call tomorrow and see if it cleared, hopefully we can move on.







The next day we left Playa Zicatela in Puerto Escondido again, heading towards Playa Escobilla, just about 20 min away, where apparently it is the sanctuary of the sea turtles. The road block was cleared so we could go through. We got to Escobilla, but the guy at the Eco Centre told us there were no turtles nesting at this time of the month, because it was full moon, and they don't like the light.





So we decided to keep going to *Mazunte where there is a Turtles Aquarium. When we got close to Mazunte we saw a sign for Ventanilla, where we heard they had a tour to see crocodiles. We decided to go there first so we have enough time to do the tour, and to go to Mazunte after. We got to Ventanilla, a beautiful little village, and we stopped at the tour centre.



The tour was starting in 15 min, so we changed quickly and got ready. Our guide was Sergio, a really cool, smart guy from Mexico City, who has studied Psychology, but ended up in Ventanilla as a volunteer guide, since he loves nature and wants to help preserve it. Vasile and I were impressed with his knowledge of animal species and plants, and all the details about them that he gave us. He explained to us how they are trying to preserve and protect the endangered species of turtles and crocodiles, as well as some species of plants. They do not get any funds from the government, and their only funding is tourists. The whole village has been destroyed by hurricane Carlotta in June this year, and now they are trying to recover from it.



They went through very tough times, since the road to the village has been completely destroyed, so there were no tourists coming to the village for a while, not to mention no help from anyone could get there, so they have been completely on their own for a good while, struggling to survive.

The tour started with a walk on the beach to see the rock like a window (ventanilla) that gave the name to the village.



Then we got to the swamp, where we were told not to get too close to the water under any circumstances. And I was like "c'mon, it's not like we're really going to see any crocodiles in the wild". Five seconds later, Sergio goes "there it is!" OMG, a huge crocodile just stuck*his head out of the water watching us. Needless to say, going forward I took Sergio's advice very seriously.



When we got into the boat to float through the swamp, Sergio told me that the safety vest was not mandatory, but "it would help us find the remaining*of your body faster in case you fall, since you would have no chance of surviving in this water full of crocodiles". That sounded very encouraging. So you can imagine how put I stayed all the way in the boat

We floated through the forest of mangroves. Sergio explained us that 70% of the mangroves were destroyed by the hurricane, and now it will take a long time for them to regrow.









Then he told us the story of the "flor del amor" (flower of love). This is a flower that is yellow during the day, and it turns orange or red at night, and it grows in the waters of the swamp.



The tradition is for men to swim in the water and get the flower for the women they love (I'd rather stay bachelor for the rest of my life!). They give the flower to their women before they make love for the first time. And if the flower is still yellow the next day, that means she's the one. If it turns red, they separate. And then he added that last year they somehow did a count of the crocodiles in the swamp and they counted 350 on a 2km stretch! And there is 16 km of swamp.

We finally got to the little island where they have a few species of animals that they rescued in different situations, and they are helping them to get better, so they can return to their natural habitat. Every year on June 5th, the international day of the animals (I just found out from Sergio) they release them all into the wild.

Here is a Spider Monkey that they have rescued when he was a baby, and they cannot release here, since this is not his natural habitat, therefore he does not know how to defend himself from the crocs, and he would be an easy prey. They are trying to get the funds to send him back to the state of Chiapas, where he is from. Unfortunately, it is very hard to get funds.

He is so funny: since he was raised among humans, he walks just like a human.





We also saw a male iguana, which apparently is rare to see.



At some point Vasile got very close to the water to take a picture of a Jesus lizard running on the water. Two minutes later, this is what came out of the water in the exact same place.







They are incredibly fast when they are coming out of the water, it only takes them a couple of seconds. Now I totally understand why they warned us to stay away from the water.

The guides had to chase it back to the water, so we can be safe. Apparently the only vulnerable point that the crocs have is their nose. It's the only part of their body that is not covered and protected by bones or hard structures. So if you hit them on the nose with a stick, they will back off. In this village all the kids know how to defend themselves against crocs, since there are high chances to run into them on a daily basis.



Here are some little baby crocs that they raise here:



And then we saw (thank god not alive!) a few species of venomous snakes, among which the deadliest snake in the world, scorpions, and a venomous huge centipede. When I asked "Are these guys living here?" I was told "Hell yeah, they could be right above you" (the scorpion or the centipede).





Then we returned to the village, and in the boat, Sergio told us a story of one of his tourists, a*lady from US who fell off the boat, and he had to jump in and rescue her. And while he was pushing her to the boat he saw the croc leaving the opposite shore to swim towards them. Meanwhile the husband was killing himself laughing (I guess she had good life insurance)

Once back to the village, we decided to go Mazunte to see the turtle aquarium. It was an unbelievable experience to see all the different species of giant sea turtles, most of them endangered species.





When we came back, we asked Sergio if he knew any economic motels or camp sites in the area. But he actually offered us something better: to camp on his land, right next to his kitchen. We gladly accepted, and we had an awesome time. Elisa, Sergio's wife, cooked dinner for us, and we had candlelight dinner (since they had no electricity). Very romantic!

One of the kids in the neighborhood caught a scorpion, and apparently if you put the scorpion in mezcate (the very traditional Mexican drink, even more so than the tequila) it make is stronger. So Sergio did that, and we all tried it (a sip, of course). We didn't really see the difference, but we didn't drink enough.



And here's another catch of the kids: a baby Jesus lizard. But they tore its tail



Around 10pm we decided to go for a walk on the beach and see if we are lucky enough to see any sea turtles nesting. Well, we did see four nests, but the turtles were gone already. One of the guys in the village told us the next day that one of the nests was of a leather-back turtles, the biggest turtle in the world, and the most rare. It was about 700 kg! I cannot believe I just missed that! It would have been an unforgettable experience, since this is not something you see every day. Oh well, next time.

So they rescued the eggs (from other people who want to either sell them, or eat them). They create a nest very similar to the one that the turtle leaves them in, wait for 45 to 60 days, and when the eggs hatch, they release the baby turtles in the water.

On the way back to the village in the dark, we stopped by the swamp, to see the crocs'*red eyes in our headlights light. We could not believe how many of them there were! Tens and tens, one next to the other!

Once back to our tent, we prepared to slip. But it was hard to forget all the stories that I heard earlier about the neighbour's baby pig that got eaten by a croc in their front yard the day before, or another neighbour's son who told us how that morning, when he woke up, he found a croc in front of their house. I thought they were not going far from the water!! Obviously I was wrong. But once Sergio assured me the place was fenced (the next day I realized it was the kind of fence that would totally allow a croc to pass under), I slept like a baby. I just woke up once in a while to watch the stars above me and realize how fortunate I was to live this experience.

Next day in the morning, we had coffee, and we said goodbye to our friends.





We started riding towards Villahermosa, to pick up Vasile's tire. The temperatures cooled down a bit during the day, so it was more bearable. The whole day we rode in a terrible wind. Many times I thought I would be pushed off the road. I could hardly keep my bike on the road. There were times where I was riding at a 70 degree angle, but I was going straight, that's how bad the winds were. When we were riding towards Ventosa, we were wondering if the winds have anything to do with the name of the village (in Spanish "ventoso" means windy). When we got there and we saw the hundreds of wind mills, we knew they did. We stopped in Piedra Blanca at a motel on the side of the road for the night, *and we celebrated Vasile's birthday with some pollo asado and Corona.

The next day we rode all the way to Villahermosa and we managed to find the KTM dealership. A real one!!!



It was so well worth it to ride all the way there. We were more than impressed with how friendly and helpful the people at the dealership were. Vasile found his tire, got some oil for his bike (this guys had everything in the store!), a filter and chain lube. Then they showed us all the KTM bikes they had, and they let me test drive a KTM Duke 200. This bike was incredibly easy to handle and extremely light!



And when we were almost ready to leave, one of the owners/partners, Juan Jose, came to ask us if we found everything we needed, and he offered us a coffee and to look for a hotel for us online. We chatted about the things we could see in the area, and he recommended us an awesome ride from here to San Cristobal de las Casas, so I think this is what we are going to do tomorrow. And then he offered Vasile to test drive a Ducati Multistrada 1200. Vasile was happy as a kid, and he came back even more excited. It looks like it's a great bike: very light but with a lot of power!



 

Then they sent a guy from the dealership to show us the way to the hotel. A big thanks to all the KTM team!

We went to the hotel, changed and then we went for a walk in town and to get some dinner (we realized we only had some eggs for breakfast in the whole day). The town is really nice and clean and the people seem very relaxed and friendly. Overall, we had a great experience here in Villahermosa.
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