Jul 22, 2009

Closing the Loop

One of the few things that moves fast while traveling through Mexico is time. Our time here has flown by us, like the majority of cars who fly pass our big white turtle shell on the road.

We felt we had accomplished, to the best of our present abilities, what we had come down to do, while learning much more than we could have imagined.

Keeping it local- corn harvest. photo by Ty Diffin

Our goal for this trip was less about what we could “do”, but what could we “be” in the presence of a new culture and a new land. How we could relate, create and integrate.

The first step has been to form positive relations with the people – all people. Young, old, Rich, poor, educated, uneducated, local or foreign. All equally valuable, all have something to teach.

The key to creating positive growth and change may be through the integration of merging the old ways and the new. Keeping traditions that have sustained life and have not sold out essential resources, like land, water and food. At the same time leaving room for new ideas and technologies that may support and enrich one’s life.

Cocos sustain life

Technological gadgets have been a great resource to us and gave us an opportunity to share with the locals something they had never seen before. We put together video clips of “La Banda”, the local surfer boys and others who had spent time in the town, and made them a short movie. Check it out here

La Banda premiere movie night

The Water Bottle Refill Program and the Slow Sand Water Filter proved to be a good example of simple technologies that may simplify life. Businesses that have been around long enough to see the build up of trash from selling disposable bottles were ready for a new alternative. The Water Bottle Refill has been a simple but effective start to decreasing the amount of single use bottles used everyday. Check out how the impact plastic water bottles alone are having on the planet (click to download 2 MB PowerPoint Water Disaster).


We were happy to help out at another popular surf destination hostel in Puerto Escondido called “Frutas y Verduras”. The owner Tomo had used the Water Filter at Pepe’s and asked us if we could help him build his own.

The view from Frutas y Verduras

Tomo said he goes through at least 8 plastic “garafons” (5 gal jugs) of water a week (=160 liters). Even though garafons are a better solution than selling 1 liter plastic bottles of water (=160 bottles per week), the garafons are still known to leach unhealthy chemicals from the plastic bottle into the water. As an added bonus, he will be saving his business money.

Tomol crushing the charcoal

Loren putting the rocks in the Slow Sand Filter

Our next stop was to revisit another one of our projects’ sites; Chicho’s Campground and Cabanas in Rio Nexpa. There sat our composting toilet that we built for him last year.
He was happy to have an alternative to his two flush toilets, yet was struggling with juggling all the responsibilities of running his businesses and was more preoccupied with the increasing mounds of trash that continues to grow everyday from his customers at the beach.

His was the same story that plagued many communities from Mexico all the way through Central America- spotty or no public trash collection! He has no easy way to deal with the surging amounts of waste, though he is very responsible in taking care of it and keeps his beach very clean.

The river is the dump in many places. Monsoonal rains wash trash "away", righ into the ocean.

Chicho instantly understood the benefits of the Water-Bottle Refill Program, so we made a sign for his restaurant on the beach so he could start reaping in more cash while the surfers pay half the price for water while using a lot less plastic, up to 150 bottles per week less, which saves almost 2 tons of carbon per season from entering the atmosphere.

Land wars in coastal Michoacan diverted the turtle to the road through the mountains, and into the high desert on our way north. We passed through Tequila, not stopping to sample, and winded through the green peaks on our way back to the coast near Mazatlan.

In Hermosillo we had the opportunity to meet René Córdova, the Managing Director of ALCOSTA, the North West Mexican Coast Sustainability Alliance. ALCOSTA represents a network of organizations dedicated to protecting the existing environment and promoting sustainable development along the coast of Baja and the mainland of the Sea of Cortes.

He educated us on the impacts of typical tourist developments, noting that the main impact of tourism was due to pollution, from sewage and trash, and that the main source of this pollution is from the workers who come to service the industry, who live in substandard conditions in the surrounding areas, with no sewage or trash disposal.

let's not destroy
the paradise we enjoy

This meeting with René served as a real summary of our trip, and so well timed with our crossing the border in the Sonoran Desert. He showed by example the kind of passion and care it takes to protect something natural in the modern world.

We crossed the border with the good ol’ US of A with no real fanfare, besides a secondary search. Moving right along, we almost had a tailwind through the desert, and limped home on the lower 3 speeds of the transmission. We made it safe and sound.

Once home we will be taking a course on Sustainable Aid with Austrailan Permaculture teacher Robyn Francis at Quail Springs. Robyn has been working internationally for over 25 years, teaching and implementing projects in the “2/3rds” world. We are excited about this opportunity to reflect on our trip and learn more.

Stay posted to our blog, as we will really be "Closing the Loop", by calculating our carbon footprint for the entire trip, and offsetting what we burnt! And we will show you how you can do the same...

Thanks for joining us again, through many borders and beyond!

Jul 4, 2009

Soakin' it Up

Returning to our favorite little gem on the Mexican coast was a welcoming relief from our journey south. The unique young town of Barra de La Cruz has become like our second home. Upon our arrival it took us over an hour (that was going as fast as we could) just to drive through the less than a mile stretch to Pepes Cabañas because there were so many familiar faces to catch up with.

The hardest part about traveling so far and visiting so many places is the lack of significant time you are able to spend at most of them. It is true that it really does take time to get to know a place, let alone form lasting bonds with the people who live there.

Making friends is easy, just paint them a picture!

Actually forming a close bond with the locals has been the easiest part for us and seems so for other travelers who take a genuine interest and have respect for their culture and way of life. "Mi casa es su casa” is the motto, and the peoples' incredible hospitality and generosity proves abundance does not come from material wealth.

We felt lucky to share some fun experiences with our muilti talented, energetic friends Anastasia Van Wingerden and Cyrus Sutton who came to meet up with us for a week.

Anastasia, Cyrus, and Loren trek'n

Anastasia 'Stas' is a great muscian, carrying her guitar and song writing skills from her recent residence in San Fransico, all the way to south of the border (check her out on her FaceBook page). Cyrus is an accomplished film maker and recently released an epic new surf documentary called ''Under the Sun''.

Cy on the belly ride, pro hand planing style

Both Cy and ‘Stas are into riding waves in organic fashion! They brought a quiver of ¨Aquatic Oddities¨, including the paulownia hand-planes custom shaped by Cy himself.

'Stas charging it on an Aquatic Oddity

Their interest to connect with the local people and to eat the fresh fruit of the land manifested beautifully on numerous occasions.

Olgilver doing what he does best

One adventure in particular took us on a scenic, though a little circuitous, hike along the coast and over into the next valley where our friends Olgilver and his father Faustino have a farm. They grow payayas, bananas, caña (sugar cane), and cocos. YUM! Our treck turned into a mega fruit fest as they insisted we try lots of their delicious sweet caña and later piled on the cocos.

Coco loco

'Stas loving it!

We were the first “gringos” to have ever been over to their farm, and they were very excited that we had taken an interest to come see what they do. “Trust us, it was our pleasure!”

after the mission

Then it was time to go back to school. The kids were preparing for their summer's break so we were just able to catch them for a few days. It was perfect timing though as our aim was to educate about the dangers of plastic in the ocean.

We have learned that children's attention is sustained for longer periods if you can make education fun. So we played lots of games, which was a great way to implement new ideas and get them to think about the environment and do something about it.

Loren practicing his referee skills for the game "rover rojo" (red rover)

Aubrey read the book "All the Way to the Ocean" (in Spanish) by Joel Harper to the kids. This was a good introduction to the kids about trash in the ocean, specifically plastic. They got it immediately, and we devised a game to solve the problem.

Aubrey reading "Al Camino del Oceano" to the niños

We came up with a game in which the children picked what they wanted to be, either dolphin, shark, or turtle. The dolphins and the sharks had to save the turtles from the poisonous jellyfish, or plastic bags. Then we ran around the village picking up the trash, or "agua malas" (jellyfish).

the cleanup crew

It is true that children are like sponges. So what a better way to clean up the mess we have all been making! They are ready to absorb, they just need something to soak up!

The wave has been good to us, with plenty to go around. Check out a short video here on YouTube from the GoPro SurfHero water camera!