South America trip - Part 2

Part 2 - Mexico, Central America and South America trip update Each morning, aboard the Holland America ship MS Zaandam, (all Holland America cruise ships have this as well), the only English-language newspaper published by the ship is a condensed version of the New York Times. There are USA, UK and Australian versions. Passengers usually grab a copy to read while having their breakfast. I’ve repeated the ritual of reading the morning Times, when we’ve been cruising, for 14 years. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever suspect I would read the leading front-page headline article that would directly affect me, until Wednesday morning. The article title: “Residents Flee Walls of Flame in Calif.” The article talked about the area in Santa Rosa, California, where I have owned a home in which my mom lived for 33 years, and now has tenants living in it, that has been evacuated because of those fires. I am getting sporadic reports from my property manager, who also has been evacuated from her home, and from my sister Christine, who lives in Mill Valley (45 minutes away), and Greta’s brother, Peter, who lives in Petaluma (30 minutes away). Because the area that includes the home is evacuated, no one has been able to confirm the status of that property, whether it’s still there, or whether it’s gone. Highway 12, the access to the community of Oakmont, is closed. So, I’ve got a little anxiety and distraction going on. Believe me, I realize that things could be much worse. I am grateful that my mom is not there. My brother’s wife has relatives nearby who have lost their home in the fire. Wineries have been burned, and thousands of buildings have been lost. As of Wednesday, 15 people have perished and many are unaccounted for.

My long time friend, Bob Rossi, owner of the Sunshine Saloon in Pleasanton, Callifornia, owns property north of Santa Rosa in Asti, California. It's the old main building (13 bedrooms on one floor) left a message on my voice mail, wondering if our property was okay. (On ship, we leave our phones on airplane mode to save on roaming charges so we don't get messages until we enter a port and turn off airplane mode.)

I called Bob back, he said their property had been saved, but the fire there came to within 100 feet of the old house. He said the destruction in Sonoma and Napa counties was massive. But, the newsletter must go on. Since last week’s article, we have stopped at several ports. Here is a brief highlight of each of them. Huatulco, Mexico – My favorite destination in Mexico. Beautiful beaches with very clean water. Oldest church in Mexico in the city center. Beach a 5-minute walk from ship.

welcome to Huatulco port sign

Huatulco sign

Huatulco police friends of Tom

Huatulco police buddies of Tom--there is a story behind this picture

Puerto Chiapas and Tapachula, Mexico – 45-minute ride by shuttle bus to reach the city of Tapachula, area population 500,000. Wonderful stop at Central Café 33 for internet and to meet nice women owners. Highlight of our trip up to that time.

Tapachula Cafe Central 33 owners

Tapachula, Mexico Central Cafe 33 owners with Greta in the middle

Puerto Quetzel and Antiqua, Guatemala – Historical city of Antiqua a 90-minute van or bus ride on a very curvy, dangerous road. Beautiful city but vendors constantly trying to sell you. Can’t help but feel very sorry for them—they are trying to make a living.

Antigua coffee tom and greta at jade stop

Fresh Antiqua, Guatemala coffee

Visited a 200-year-old former convent that is now a 4-star hotel (El Convento Botique Hotel) with the ruins preserved within the hotel grounds. A chocolate shop with the kitchen attached was ---umm---irresistible. Stopping at this hotel made are day-trip to Antiqua worth the effort and time.

Manta, Ecuador – The “Tuna Capital” of the world Our ship, the Zaandam, docked 50 yards across the pier from the Ocean Jin, a freighter that transports tuna. A forklift was offloading open containers chocked full of freshly caught bluefin tuna. The containers were placed on the pier, with fish tails sticking out and steam, from the fish being in refrigerated holds, evaporating into the air. The containers were then lifted by the forklift onto flatbed trucks, covered with a green tarp, and driven away.

Manta Ecuador offloading tuna

Ocean Jin offloading tuna As Greta and I were about to leave the ship on level one where the gangway was located, we were surprised to find ship personnel wheeling two carts of the tuna toward the elevators, to take to the kitchen, with the tails still sticking out.

Tuna coming aboard Zaandam

Tuna coming aboard--served at dinner that night Our crew had acquired the tuna from the Ocean Jin. We assumed that tuna would be on the dinner menu that night. And we were right. Fresh tuna sushi was served in the dining room. It was delicious. Manta is considered the tuna capital of the world because of the millions of tons of tuna caught in its nearby waters. Bumble Bee has a large tuna plant there. We took a shuttle bus from the ship to a modern shopping center where we were able to use wi-fi at a Pizza Hut, of all places. The shopping center was huge and a major Sunday morning draw for the residents living around Manta. We were surprised that Mass was being conducted right amid the shops on the polished marble floors in the mall. Trujillo, Peru

A 40-minute shuttle bus ride from the ship took us to this bustling city. We enjoyed visiting the main cathedral and nearby we came upon a McDonald’s.