Palapas

Building material inside!Cardon cactus

Pablo built the palapas you see in the photos below with very basic tools and supplies. He used a lot of haywire to fasten the cross ribs to the upright support posts and to lash the date palm fronds to the frame at the roof and sides. There were few trees in the region, so Pablo was always on the lookout for dead branches. I think he said he used palo verde branches or trunks for the main upright posts. For the cross ribs and the roofing ribs, he used the ribs of dead cardón cacti. I’m standing by a fairly large cardón cactus in the photo above.

When a cactus died, the inside ribs, usually about 20 of them, dried up and were very strong. Frequently, I had seen Pablo carry a huge bundle of these ribs, 10 to 15 feet long from someplace in the desert where he had found a dead cactus. He also stockpiled a collection of date palm fronds for making the walls and ceiling in much the same way we use cedar shingles to make a shake roof, overlapping them to keep the rain off.

One of the main building materials used in palapa construction is from the inside of the cardón cactus.

One of the main building materials used in palapa construction is from the inside of the cardón cactus.

Palapa under construction. Turkey vultures are waiting for the construction workers to keel over in the heat.

Perfect perches

Perfect perches

Pablo’s eyesight was poor and he was in the habit of carrying binoculars around his neck in case it was important for him to see something.  One day he and two of his sons were working on the roof of the palapa pictured above. A young Italian lady was staying in one of the palapas farther down the beach. She had the kind of body you see in the Sports Illustrated, Swimsuit Edition, and a very uninhibited nature to go with it. The singer Ray Stevens must have known her because just like his “Little Egypt” she “came out strutting wearing nothing but a button and a bow-oh-whoa-whoa.”

Well, it’s a wonder Pablo didn’t fall out of the palapa rafters and break his legs as he felt around, looking for his binoculars without taking his half blind eyes off “Little Italy.” Pablo’s sons didn’t get much work done for the next half hour as she held their undivided attention.

Later, Pablo complained to me, “The one time I leave my binoculars at home….”

La PerlaWhat a place to come for peace and quiet. Or to read about yourself in a romantic suspense story set in Baja.

Orion’s Gift is waiting for you.

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Spider Hideouts

 

 

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Camped near a beautiful beach in Mexico, we often bought our fruit and vegetables from the produce truck.  One day, I lugged home three big bags of vegetables.

“Coming to the beach?” Gary asked.

“You go ahead. I’ll be down right after I clean these veggies,” I grumbled, slapping at the tiny biting flies. I soon gave up trying to work outside and brought the vegetables into the bug-free trailer to clean them in my little kitchenette.

Done at last! Now for the beach and a cool swim. I hurried outside to bring in my bathing suit from the clothesline we had strung between two coconut palms. I was about to step into it, when I let out a shriek. A brown critter about the size of a wolf spider was waiting for me inside the bathing suit bra.

Anyone passing by must have gawked at the bathing suit flying out the doorway.

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I was late getting to the beach that day, and although the water was refreshing, I couldn’t relax. Other swimmers must have wondered at the woman who kept pulling away the top of her bathing suit to look at her boobs.

That evening, we sat at the kitchen table playing cards and relaxing with an Oso Negro gin and peach juice. I tidied up the last few things before getting into bed.

Gary had just finished brushing his teeth and as he came out of the bathroom he heard me GASP! His eyes followed my arm as I pointed to the corner of the trailer. There, clinging to the ceiling, sat the biggest spider I’d ever seen. The fuzzy dark brown visitor had a body the size of my thumb and could easily straddle a saucer. If I had been a screamer they would have heard me all the way to Mazatlan.

“And I’ve been sitting there playing cards all evening with that thing poised over my head,” I wailed.

I handed Gary the fly swatter. “If it gets away,” I said, shakily, “I’m not sleeping in here tonight and I’ll be on the plane tomorrow.”

“It must have come in with the vegetables,” he said, as he tossed its crumpled body outside.

And where had it been while I sat there cleaning them? I wondered. Hiding in the cauliflower leaves? How close had I come to touching it? Shivers ran down my back.

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The next day we visited an open air market. I admired the handmade wooden cutting boards and picked one up to study the grain. Something ran over my hand. I threw the board into the air and squealed, “Una araña!” The vendor laughed and seemed unperturbed as I pointed to the gigantic spider running in his direction.

I was having serious thoughts of home. But imagine missing all this fun.

I’m Dreaming of a …

December on Vancouver Island often means high winds and vigorous waves. Lately it has been blowing and raining buckets sideways so often that we are surprised if the sun comes out, and we wonder what that bright light is. Before we can point it out to anyone, the moment of sunshine is history, so we don’t get too excited about a peek at the sun.

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The road that goes along a spit of land below our house has wild waves on the exposed side and relatively calm waters on the inland side. Still, today it was choppy on the sheltered side too.

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We drove to town taking the long way around, passing by the beaches and the bird sanctuary you see below. For most of the year, the sanctuary is a marsh in places, but these past weeks the water level has come right across the road, making the marsh look more like a lake.

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The walking trail that follows the edge of the marsh has almost become a part of it. High boots are needed to walk there today.

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Driving on, we see that the second access to the ocean is even wilder than the first. Anyone foolish enough to stand in front of these waves would disappear in them and be tossed around like the logs that tumble around in the frothing surf and end up flung onto the high tide line.

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At most times of the year, it’s very pleasant to sit on a bench and watch the waves. The benches had no visitors today.

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Just when I was feeling sorry for myself about the weather, I dug around in my photo folders and found one of the winter of 2007. No flooding then, no high waves, but also, no power when the heavy branches broke and fell onto the power lines somewhere down the road.

The snow is pretty, but when you sing, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,” you have to be careful what you wish for. I don’t want a snow-laden bough to cut off the electricity to the oven just when my Christmas turkey is half done.

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So I think “Dreaming of a White Christmas” is okay as long as I don’t really wish for my dreams to come true.

Three Treats

Here is a fabulous deal for anyone with an e-reader. For the next month, until May 15th, just in time for Easter and Mother’s Day, my e-books will be on sale for only $1.00. Do you like reading the kind of book where you come away feeling like you’ve learned something new? I know I do. The setting and background in each of my books are very different from the usual.

1. The Wind Weeps takes place on the West Coast of British Columbia and takes you up the coast from Vancouver Island, to the mainland, and north to the Queen Charlotte Islands and back. But it’s not a travel book. The characters live and work on the coast and this is where their story evolves. While I have you in the grip of romantic suspense, you will inadvertently be finding out about life on the coast, at times, on a fish boat and at times in a remote cabin. Ah … a romantic remote cabin. How wonderful! But only if you’re with the right person. For $1.00 you can can enjoy chewing your nails to find out what happens next.

The Wind Weeps

2. If you’ve ever been to the Mexican state of Baja, you’ll enjoy revisiting the trip as the events in Orion’s Gift unfold in that setting. This one is not a travel book either, but you’ll feel as if you’re right there, with my main characters, Kevin and Sylvia. They each are looking for an escape to the unhappy situations they have left behind. The sparks fly and we think they might have found real love at last, but what they don’t know is that their spurned spouses are hunting them down. Discover Baja, a setting that is like a double-edged sword with its natural beauty and its raw harsh elements. Please take the time to see a recent review of Orion’s Gift at Luanne’s Writer Site. 

Orion's Gift

3. Now for something completely different again, we go to Europe in the days before, during, and after WWII. It is not a war story, but a story of a young woman who lived through it, hoping to find the man of her dreams. Timing and circumstances are rarely in her favour, but her love for her children carries her through harder times than she could ever have imagined. Love triangles always end in heartbreak for someone. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry when you read about Julia, but you’ll end up loving her, too.

Front Cover OnlyYou can buy all three of these books for a grand total of $3.00.

Go to Anneli’s Author Page to see all three books for Kindle.

If you have an e-reader other than Kindle, you can buy the books at smashwords.com. Click on the book you want to buy at the regular price and then type in the coupon code to get the bargain price of 99 cents.

Here are the links and codes for each book:

The Wind Weeps Coupon Code NF43D

Orion’s Gift  Coupon Code UQ49E

Julia’s Violinist Coupon Code JH64Z

The Ups, Downs, and All Arounds of Trees

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The sun warmed a spot through the clouds for about twenty minutes this morning, very low in the southern sky. I rushed to the beach with my camera to catch the rare light. A David-and-Goliath battle was raging between two formidable contestants: the sprawling army of thick fogbanks and the solitary feeble rays of the sun. The sun stood its ground and battled bravely, but was soon overrun by the misty masses rolling in like wave after wave of gray-cloaked cavalry.

I resigned myself to making the best of a quick jaunt along the beach boardwalk and my mind was soon re-focused on trees. Though many lined the walkway, some had fallen down, roots drowned in rivulets flowing to the sea.

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Others stood tall, waving their arms as if to encircle me and cast a spell on me.

017Yet others, tiring of their job of decorating the seaside boardwalk, had no strength left to resist the high winter winds off the sea. The trees were no longer up, yet not quite down. They were “maybes,” the kind of trees the loggers call widowmakers.

??????????See the grandfather tree keeling over and the young whipper-snapper doing his best to hold him up?

Those were the “ups,” “downs,” and “maybes” of the tree world. On the way back to my car, I noticed one more tree that appealed to me. It was the “all around” version.

025So there you go. I hope you’ll find this post was a “tree”t. Yes, yes, I’ve used that pun before, but my bark is worse than my bite and I wanted to come up with a way to thank you for lumbering along with me. I knew it wood not be very witty. It’s really a pithy to make you suffer like that. In future, I’ll try to branch out more and leave all this fir someone else. Maybe soon yew‘ll cedar improvement. Still, you’d better hedge your bets. Thank you so much for logging in to my b-log post.

Wet ’nuff fer ya?

In 1977 we lived in the Queen Charlotte Islands and thought there was no place wetter in the world. Imagine our surprise when we saw a sign during our stay on Kauai that said, “Wettest Spot in the World.” Apparently Mt. Wai’ale’ale gets about 452 inches of rain a year and five years after our 1977 visit there, it would receive a record 683 inches.

The biggest difference in the rain in the Charlottes and the rain in Kauai is the temperature. Much warmer in this Hawaiian Island.

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Near Poipu Beach, our favourite beach on Kauai, we visited the blowhole called Spouting Horn. The water that sprays through this blowhole in the lava can reach as high as 50 feet. A person could stand and watch for hours.

img046On our last day in the Hawaiian Islands, we flew back to Oahu to wait for our flight  to Vancouver. We had all day to explore  Honolulu, so we went to the beach that had interested us the least, Waikiki. I like the quieter  beaches with fewer people. Waikiki was not high on my priority list of places to visit. What an impression it left with me – and not a particularly good one. At that time, Waikiki was notable for having the most cigarette butts I have ever seen in the sand.

img045The zoo was nearby so we wandered through it. I was amazed at the black tongues of the giraffes. How tough their tongues must be to curl around the tree leaves and rip them off.

Sightseeing on foot, we got tired and hungry. We found a hotel that was having a lot of Happy Hour goodies. All we had to do was pay for our drinks. The appetizer portions were generous and best of all, they were free. The idea was to interest us in a stay at this hotel, but since we were on our way home, we had to save that hotel information for our next visit.

They even put on a little performance where a group of Hawaiians danced and banged on the drum between the Tiki torches.

img124At last we had to go to the airport to check in. My husband snapped a quick photo of me near the airport. He was having some trouble getting me centered in the photo and asked me to back up a little. I did and immediately let out a shriek. Strung between those lovely hibiscus flowers was a spider web with a black and bright yellow spider in the center. Can you see the goosebumps on my arms?

img125In the airport, we checked in and then had time to kill before our flight. We wandered through the Duty Free shop and had another big surprise. There, newly arrived in Honolulu, stood our friends from home.

“What are you doing here?” we said. “You’re supposed to be in the Charlottes!”

“Well, what are you doing here?” they asked. “You’re supposed to be in Europe!”

And, of course, after all the explanations, we ended with the unavoidable cliché (and I apologize) – “It’s a small world.”

Die Laughing

I was in Nanaimo a few days ago and went to Departure Bay for the first time in years. I took a couple of pictures of the bay and reminisced about a time I was there with a friend many, many years ago.

Near the shore, I sat above the logs and looked at what was once our swimming beach.

Near the shore, I sat above the logs and looked at what was once our swimming beach.

The ferry terminal is near the bright spot on the horizon.

The ferry terminal is near the bright spot on the horizon.

This is the other side of the bay.

This is the other side of the bay with the biological station in the distance.

In the days before most families had two or more cars parked in front of their house, my friend Gina and I walked everywhere. At the tender age of sixteen we thought nothing of walking several miles from our houses to Departure Bay where we could hang out at the beach.  I’d only lived in Nanaimo for a couple of months, and having grown up in the BC interior, deprived of an ocean for all those years, I was not a good swimmer. I could barely stay afloat. But at Departure Bay, a raft was anchored not too far out from the beach. We decided to swim for it, rest, and then swim  back.

Gina and I were probably the giggliest girls that ever went through their teen years together, always goofing around. It’s no surprise then, that while we were “swimming” (dogpaddling, sidestroking, frog-legging, or whatever) out to the raft, Gina thought it would be a good time to tell a joke.  I thought it was hilarious at the time, and yet I had no memory of it two hours later. All these years later, I still can’t remember that joke. I only know  it was the funniest one I had ever heard.

I was in the middle of a not-so-graceful sidestroke when Gina got to the punchline. My stomach cramped up with laughter and I sank below the surface. It was pretty scary under that black water. Forget the joke. This wasn’t funny. I sobered up and kicked to the surface for a gasp of air. I tried to get my stroke back, saw Gina’s grinning face bobbing a few feet away from me. She  rolled her eyes and made a face. I spluttered  out the last bits of water in my mouth, cramped up with laughter and sank again.

“Holy smoke,” I thought. “I’m going to drown!”  I kicked up, belched and spluttered out the water I’d inhaled, and snatched a lungful of air. One look at Gina’s grin and I was laughing again. It was such a funny joke. But as I sank for the third time, I remembered that old saying that once you go under three times, you’re done for.

“No way!” I thought. “I’m not going to die laughing.” I struggled to the surface and swam as hard as I could in my clumsy way, not daring to look at Gina. We were still some distance from the raft, and way too far out to consider turning back to shore. I managed to get to the raft, haul myself aboard, and collapse there.

Once Gina was up on the raft too, we had a proper giggle attack. Finally, finally, finally, we had no giggles left in us. After a while we thought we should head back but honestly, I was terrified to get back in the water. I would have been braver if I’d been alone, but with Gina beside me, there was no telling what might happen. What if she knew more than one joke? And it wasn’t only the jokes. We were experts at making faces at each other that would send us off into fits of giggles and snorts. I don’t know how we ever managed to grow up and turn into sensible, responsible people.

A cloud passed over us, and a breeze poofed the water up a bit. It was getting a bit chilly sitting on the raft. We knew we had to get back into that water soon. I made Gina promise not to make funny faces or tell any more jokes, or we might not make it back to shore. Just to be sure I did the sidestroke facing away from Gina all the way back to the beach.

We are still best friends these many years later, still telling jokes, but not while we’re swimming.

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Departure Bay no longer has a raft. Possibly it’s not as good for swimming now that the ferry passes close by.