Lake Chapala in Transition

Hola, folks! Sorry to have been away from here for so long. Wish I could say I was engaging in some exotic travel (or even some boring travel for that matter). But no, I’ve been under the weather for a couple of weeks. Nothing serious, at least not yet. And I feel that I’m coming to the end of it.

One catch-up note: The work on the house across the street is proceeding apace. The second floor is appearing rapidly and delivery after delivery of bricks have been deposited on the porch and then carried up to the second floor.

Yes, the bricks arrive by the truck load. One worker piles three or four bricks and then tosses them to another worker who piles them neatly on the porch.

But this is not the main subject of today’s blog. Indeed, it appears that we have turned the corner on the shrinkage of the lake. The rainy season has arrived. We’ve had a number of nights with storms and a few days as well, with gentle rain for at least part of the day.

Hopefully we’ve hit the low level of the lake for this year and from here on we’ll have sufficient rain to replenish the levels.

With that, here are photos from the end of June, showing just how low the lake has fallen.

And here are two paired photos of the same general area off the malecon, the first photo being the current view and the second being last Fall. Quite a contrast.

Slip Sliding Into Summer 2021

Hola, readers!

Here’s a grab bag as we head into summer. The lazy days are here again.

Well, at least Kato is taking advantage of it. I’m busier than ever and keeping my eyes open for items to share with you.

First, renovation continues to progress on the house across the street. This week another load of bricks, two actually, appeared and lo and behold, a second story is going up. I haven’t yet had a chance to look around from inside the house again so a view from the outside will have to do. I’ll keep working on that.

Second, covid restrictions are being relaxed again here. Public areas are allowed more capacity. The state orchestra has started concerts in the beautiful Teatro Degollado in Guadalajara. Good old rock ‘n roll is coming back too as soon as the Fall. Wonderful!

Here in Chapala, the train station is holding shows out on the lawn. Seems like Sunday is the day, so I’ll be headed up there today.

We’ll see if the show will go on today, however, because, TA-DA!, it’s raining. Has been for two days now. Wonderful! Yeah! ‘Cause the lake has fallen below 50% capacity. It’s lost almost 25% over the last three years.

This week while I was taking my daily walk on the malecon, I noticed that workers were out mowing the beach. Yes, you read that right! One of the newly-exposed strips of beach starting growing tall grass and so the mowing crew has been chopping away.

Thank goodness the rain has started. The section of the lake facing the breakwater is very low. Just a few short inches until it becomes beach.

And last, another reason to celebrate, we’re enjoying mango season here in Mexico. Turns out mango trees are huge! There’s no picking mangos off the tree without a long pole picker.

And so it goes. Life is good here in Mexico regardless of what you might read in the sensational media. But quiet please, let’s keep that our little secret!

A Mexican Renovation, Part 1

For a couple of weeks now, one of the row houses across the street from my apartment has been a hive of activity. About a half-dozen young men are working and truckloads of dirt and bricks and rebar and steel beams and cement bricks have been delivered and disappeared into the house.

The young men are very friendly and we say hola and acknowledge one another whenever I venture out. I started looking inside with interest and they would smile and wave. So the other day I asked one of them if I could take a tour and take some photos. In Spanish, of course!

He was very happy to take me in and gave me the grand tour.

Inside the front door is the living room, or sala.

It’s a fairly small room and a holding spot for tools and implements required for renovation.

Next, and the main focus of activity on that day, is the kitchen, or cocina. The living room is the only part of the house that currently has a ceiling and the men were busily putting a new ceiling in place.

This is quite a process. Having built some new walls of brick and rebar, steel beams are put in place and then cement bricks (large bricks to be sure) are laid between the beams to build the ceiling.

Once complete, the men explained that wet cement would be poured on top to seal the structure. And, a second story will be added.

Other work was busy in the kitchen as well. One young man was busy demolishing, carefully, and old wall.

Behind the kitchen is the dining room, on the left, and either a closet or utility room on the right.

I’m guessing it will be several more weeks of work for these men and I look forward to seeing how the renovation progresses. I’ll keep my eye out for more opportunities to record it.

 

How Dry It Is!

The big story here at lakeside is that the lake is shrinking, seemingly faster and faster. It’s palpable; it appears each day that I walk the malecon, the lake has fallen a little bit lower.

Among residents here, few have seen the lake at lower levels. It’s really quite an astonishing sight and the topic of much discussion.

Here’s what we’ve come to expect as “normal” for the level of the lake. Specifically by fisherman’s pier. The picture immediately blow is from a typical “dry” season. The lake is low, about as low as it gets. Not that the areas under the pier are all well covered by the lake.

Contrast this with the level of the lake by the pier after a rainy season (June, July, August, September).

Note below, again after a rainy season, that the lake is very close to the malecon and the pier is just above the lake.

Compare this to now:

The pier is totally exposed and even sports a little (rocky) beach around it.

Of course, your intrepid reporter just had to venture a peek under the pier. So along the beach and around the corner I went!

Definitely rocky and definitely required care in walking.

And sure enough, the four openings below the pier which are normally covered by the lake are now dry enough to walk to the end of the pier.

The opening closest to land was the most dry.

This afforded me a good look at the structure and craftsmanship of the building of the pier.

The second opening was the most precarious. Only a relatively thin line of stones led from the land side to the lake side.

The third and the fourth openings were dry dry dry.

Here’s a look back. Hopefully a rare sight!

And up and away!

One final comparison.

We’re all hoping for an abundant rainy season upcoming to restore the level of the lake.

Trip Around Lake Chapala, Part 1

A couple of weeks ago, I met with Hector, my Qi Gong instructor, in Christiana park where we have an early morning session. Joining us was Hector’s esposa (wife), Ilda, and another student and professional, Lolita. I’m the odd man out in the conversation given my lack of Spanish, although I’m working on that. They are very conscious of including me, despite my communications challenges.

I asked them to speak only Spanish with me so that I’d have to learn. At some point I mentioned, in Spanish, that I’d love to take a trip around the lake one of these days. Well, lots of Spanish flew and before I knew it, a trip was planned for Wednesday (it was Monday). Wonderful!

We met at the main entrance to the park at 7AM and drove off in Hector’s car. We drove west, headed through Ajijic and other populated lakeside towns along the north side of the lake.  Lots of restaurants and houses and several towns. After Ajijic, the populations are mostly Mexican. There’s several expat enclaves that are gated communities, little fortresses of the homeland here in Mexico.

After an hour or so of driving, we arrived in Jocotepec at the west end of the lake.  It was time for some coffee and some breakfast and a little stretch.

Every town in Mexico, at least all I’ve encountered has a public square which is anchored by a Catholic church. We parked just off the square and walked toward the mercado area, or the public market.

Jocotepec was just coming awake. Vendors were setting up, preparing good and cooking.

We even encountered an old but still functional foosball machine!

After some sustenance and a breath of Jocotepec, we headed off to the road around the south side of Lake Chapala.

After Jocotepec, we’re in local Mexican territory. No gringos here, except a few renegades.

The south side of the lake is primarily farming territory. Miles and miles of covered crops, in this case, lots of berries. Blueberries and raspberries. Tomatoes. Lots of goodies!

The shore of the lake here is wild. Farms extend right down to the shore. There are no beaches in the traditional sense of the word.

And there’s the occasional town.

After another hour or so, we arrived at Tlazapan. An inviting town!

More to follow.

Walking on Water, Er, Well, Lake Chapala

Mexico is experiencing a severe drought. The second largest lake in Mexico, Lake Cuitzeo, has basically dried up. Farmers are desperate for water for crops. Hopefully we’ll have a wet season, which should kick in a little in June and then full force in July, August and into September.

Last month I blogged about the rapidly diminishing water levels of Lake Chapala. The shoreline in Chapala has receded more than I’ve witnessed in the last four years that I’ve lived here now. Here’s a comparison.

In the photo below from June of 2018, we see that the shoreline encompasses the pier and the breakwater to the far right of the photo is clearly out in the lake. Accessible by boat only.

Compare then to this photo, taken this month, May of 2021.

The entire time I’ve lived here, the lakeshore has stayed around the base of the pier in these photos and lapped on the foundation of the restaurant. The area between the restaurant and the breakwater was covered by the lake.

Here it is today!

The breakwater is now accessible by foot!

It’s kinda wild over there. And, it turns out, there’s a rocky beach of the other side of the breakwater.

I’ll keep watch on the receding lake. While it’s fascinating, it’s also a little troublesome. Hopefully we’ll have a very wet rainy season this year.

 

 

 

Hector and Me and More in Chapala Spring (Redux!)

A few weeks ago, my neighbor told me that someone was teaching a class on Qi Gong, sponsored by the city, and free to participants. This immediately conjured up visions of Chinese geezers slowing pantomiming around in Beijing parks. Nevertheless, I was intrigued, never having experienced Qi Gong and happy to try something new.

Little did I know.

We went to a “preview” class over in the park. There we met Hector, a gracious Spanish wizard. Dressed in white and speaking only a smattering of English, he ended up teaching one gringo and four gringas Qi Gong over the course of several weeks.

Hector has a heart of gold, or pure crystalline water as I’m sure he would prefer me to say. And he was truly generous with his time and energy and attention. We all enjoyed the class and his sharing.

Life moves on slowly here as we move into the hot season in May and June until the rains start during the summer.

With the pandemic still being in the headlines and on people’s minds, the usual activities here are fewer and life a bit slower. And that’s just fine. One of the little things I’ve noticed is a delightful discovery when I tried a delicious new (well, new to me at least) Thai food delivery service. They serve the mango coconut tapioca dessert in a container made of fast renewing, biodegradable bamboo. Yes, indeed!

A neighboring friend told me about all the products now being made of bamboo, inviting me to check out bamboo undergarments on Amazon. Sure enough, there they are. And he presented me with a covid mask made of bamboo fiber. Very comfortable!

Finally, finally! We’re slowing getting music again. My favorite venue recently hosted an outdoor event with Orchestra Tipica of Chapala, our old friends. Crank up the volume and dance!

Last for now, I witnessed a work of nature that I’d not seen here before. I leave you for now with a video of this wonder!

 

 

How Dry It Is: Lake Chapala is Shrinking!

The winter and the Spring here at lakeside are dry, sometimes, like this year, very dry. I literally can’t remember the last time it rained. Yes, the water tables have dropped as well with warning about excessive use coming from local authorities.

And it’s slowly and steadily getting warmer and warmer during the day. Up into the low 80s. Before long, that will yield to the mid to high 80s at the peak of the day. And then as we enter the summer months, we’ll start to have rain.

At night, thank goodness. Not that it doesn’t rain during the day. Sometimes, it does but only for an hour or two before the sun bursts through again.

Right now though, it’s sunshine and warmth and delightful days.

The lake is as low as I can remember in the four years that I’ve lived here now.

The easiest way to observe this is by looking at the water levels around the piers and the shore.

The bridge to nowhere is now all on the beach. Won’t be landing any boats there for a while yet.

It’s easy to see where to waterline was. Just above the dark patch of shore visible in the foreground and extending down the entire shore. This is a view from the west side of the malecon looking east. The main and most vibrant area of the malecon is yet further to the east of the white pier toward the back of the photo.

Notice too that the stairsteps down to the water have been refurbished. Pained a nice vibrant Mexican color.  During the wet season the palm tree in the foreground would be deep in the lake.

Note that the first opening under the pier is typically full of water. During the height of the rainy season, the lake almost touches the bottom of the bridge there.

And finally we observe the pelicans. Today, they’re lined up on some high ground that almost makes it possible to walk to the breakwater without getting one’s feet wet. To do so this day, you’d have to deal with the pelicans.

To me, this photo just screams that it needs and deserves a caption: So I offer mine:

NONE SHALL PASS!!!

Other captions welcome.  Drop me a comment.

Until next time, Bob

 

 

 

Spring Has Sprung in Chapala

Life is rolling on here in Chapala. Life is vibrant here; the days are getting warmer; more and more people are out and about, yes, even with the current health problems. Little changes abound.

The avocado trees are full and lush and dripping with their delicious fruit. My neighbor and I went to the local vegan restaurant. He pointed out the avocados hanging way above us close by.

Last year I was lunching at another local restaurant. Many of the restaurants have mostly outdoor seating. A table, chairs, and an umbrella. My neighbor and I observed that the mango tree growing nearby was groaning with ripening mangos. We also observed  another couple seated in the open (no umbrella) right underneath the tree.

Well, you’ve probably guessed the rest of the story. We heard a bonk and an ouch and we all dissolved in laughter.

Not an uncommon experience here.

At a gathering of our neighbors last week we were talking about the differences in the food environments between the U.S. and Mexico. Here, the produce sections are huge and the frozen sections small, pretty much the mirror opposite of the U.S. And here the fruits are vegetables are available fresh and pretty much local year round.

A few items, such as numerous varieties of potatoes are not found here. Pretty much we only have a handful of varieties here. No Russets, no Yukon Gold. Plain old white in a couple of varieties and a few different sweet potatoes.

In Guadalajara, more can be found. A couple of weeks ago, we headed up to the Mercado de los Abastos (the market of supplies). Supplies there are. Rows and rows and rows of fruit and vegetable markets and prepared foods. Simply lovely!

 

 

 

The Return of the Voladores

There’s been a major shift here at lakeside. At least, it feels that way. For the voladores have returned!

It happened just this week.

I went for my usual walk along the malecon, soaking in the sun and watching the pelicans glide around on the lake. Then I noticed that the voladores, the flying men, were back.

They’ve been gone for almost a year. I assume they were prohibited from performing their skill because they tend to draw a crowd, a no-no in these days of fear. But now, they’re back!

Likewise it seems that the spirit has lifted locally. There’s a spring in everyone’s step. Earlier this week I went with a couple of neighbors to the park across the street for a lesson in Qi Gong. The professor spoke almost no English and we spoke little Spanish but that didn’t matter. We followed along and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. And we’ll return for more lessons in the upcoming weeks.

I also strolled out on the bridge to nowhere to get another view of the lake. Lovely!

I’ll leave you with yet another video of the pelicans. I hope you find them as graceful and soothing as I do!