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June 2013

How I Ended Up In the Jungles of Belize

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What do you mean you don't want a cuba libre for breakfast?  
What kind of film crew is this!
When my bud, Ky, first reached out, I was in my truck at my fave gas station in Manhattan Beach loading up with things to take across the border to Baja (on the run from the FLO remodel, I'm sure) - a border which I was departing for within moments. So, lets just say, I was already in an adventurous mood.  
She wove a great tale:  We're going to head down to tropical Belize, hack our way through a mega jungle (river baths, campfires, snake avoids) and attempt to locate a hidden stelae.  Which is like the Rosetta Stone for the Mayans.   We will film it all - she as co-host to Mark, an archeologist on the hunt for this treasure. Hmmm....sounds ripe enough for the likes of me.  I was in.  Tiny crew of 4, including the 2 hosts.  Perfecto!
So - a month later - there we were - in all that messy green looking for a rock.  I mean come on - it's 100,000 acres for the love!  Next to impossible.  
The Bladen Nature Reserve is a jungle that no tourist can enter - you have to be a legit entity looking for something important - with the skills (and permits) to back it up.  Which we were amazingly enough.  
But how we got to that green - well, that's another story.  We had already been through lost car reservations, missing permits, our sweet guides family house burning down the night before we launched (Easter weekend, mind you), love affairs with Marie Sharp's hot sauce, no hot water or plumbing in hotels, restaurant deficits (and for me personally, about a jillion rum and cokes).  
Oh, and don't forget about the Guatemalan bandits wielding machine guns who enter the Bladen to hijack these big rocks.  Yay, we had that to look forward to as well...more on that in the next Tooth...
Ahh, Belize.
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Minka Goes To Baja - For Baja Bound

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Here is the latest article for Baja Bound - guess I loved writing in Minka's voice!

As a dog, there are a couple of things I will always know to be true when I hop in the truck with my mom and dad. There will always be a big adventure when we finally stop. There will always be lots of new friends to kiss. And, there will certainly always be blissful bits of road scraps to be wolfed down. My folks like to eat like kings and most times, I just follow their bellies, knowing that if I’m a real good girl, I’m gonna see and taste all sorts of new delicious things. Little did I know what was in store for me on my first few trips to Baja (grilled fish, creamy avocado, bones galore, big chunks of machaca) but I’m now an old pro at border crossings (four times in less than a year!). However, in the beginning of my puppy days – whew, what a whirlwind!

My first mega trip across the border into Baja (December 2012) involved all sorts of preparation. We visited my vet to get travel paperwork, we set up the back seat of the truck with lots of soft blankets (I actually called shot gun most of the trip), and we hit the pet food store so I could select a new toy (Mrs. Squirrel, whom I happily unstuffed just outside of Santa Rosalia). We made it across the border and lots of military checkpoints and nobody ever questioned me, or my wagging tail.

Minka Baja Dog

I know my folks were nervous about finding hotels that were dog friendly along Highway 1, especially with limited internet access to do research on the way, but my mom is a smartie – she used the website vrbo.com (vacation rentals by owners) for most of the trip and when we got into no mans land she’d just perkily enter a hotel (with me) to see if pets were allowed and once they saw my super cute face and cheery smile, they always said yes. I always noodle my whole body around peoples legs to make them comfy and usually they give me a little treat or at the very least a good scratch behind the ears. I’m a really big fan of the nice cool rooms at La Mision Hotel in Loreto. We always get bay scallop risotto there and so many new friends pet me in the lobby every day. The life in Loreto is just my speed – chilling in the town square while my mom sips a mango margarita and I touch noses with all the dogs off leash running around. They usually want me to come with them on their scouts through the village, but I know the best place in the world to be is right at the base of my mom and dads feet. Ever had nibbles of the scrambled egg and cheese burrito from Café Ole just off the square? Wow.

Now as for food along the way, the perk of being a road dog is the quantity of good girl treats I get. My mom always takes me to the funnest restaurants – all with outdoor seating, so I’m always invited. Tiny shacks on the beach where I get to jump in the water, practice my fetch skills and eat lots of grilled shrimp and fresh fish. One of my best Baja friends is a really pretty girl named Pele down on the beach in Bahia Concepcion – her parents run Ana’s Restaurant on Playa Santispac. We ran on the beach until we were delirious, but you gotta watch out cause those little pangas have anchor lines to shore that will clothesline dogs like me if you aren’t careful. Pele and me witnessed that travesty firsthand.

Baja Machaca 
Baja Guacamole

Mom enjoys tequila and there’s the most amazing place we trek to in La Bufadora where I have certain spots that I hide things and then rediscover on later trips. She raves about the housemade tequila to everyone, and I quote directly from mom’s mouth:

"Just south of Ensenada is La Bufadora, the world’s 2nd largest blowhole. It’s interesting to see it shoot 100 ft. into a cloudless sky, but what’s more enthralling is what’s tucked behind the bar at La Bufadora Tequila Grill, just up the hill from the blowhole. Literally – the best tequila you will ever taste. You’ve never sipped tequila like this before. Yes, you sip it. And ever so slowly. The recipe for this vanilla pod, herb tangled, orange peel, raisin infused thrill ride runs back triple generations and is like nothing else you’ve ever let tickle your tonsils. You can take in a few rounds onsite while watching the sun set over the Pacific or even better buy a bottle to go ($100 per) and you will be the kingpin among all the dis-believers when you bust it out at your next dinner party. This is a handcrafted batch of Gods’ tears and rumor has it that it’s good enough for Tiger Woods to chopper over for (he’s building a golf course nearby), consider it next level sippin’."

Minka Baja Dog

There is also one of my fave spots on earth – San Javier. Turns out this little village in the mountains above Loreto, is full of dogs. Only 140 people live there and there are at least 20 dogs running around! Oh, the joy. I’ve never played with a friendlier pack of pups in all my days. Little ones, big ones, sassy ones, and one real funny one who had a beer can tied to his tail. Guess everyone wanted to know when he was coming down the boulevard! Mom likes to drink skinny margaritas at the little café on the square and just recently we got an amazing tour of the huge farm behind the church. One of the oldest families in San Javier owns it and they have lots of old grape vines to make wine from and olives for fresh pressed olive oil. I can’t wait to go back for the harvest this fall. I’m definitely planning on a personal tour with Memo again. He’s the handsome cowboy that makes the homemade machaca I love so much at Palapa San Javier. He’s famous for it and was even in a book!

Anyhow – this roundup barely touches the life I lead down in Baja. Like my mom and dad, I dream of it often. But, as I say to the border guard at the Tecate crossing (we always use this one cause it’s shorter lines and a prettier drive) – Woof! Woof! And catch ya on the rebound! He just tosses me a smile and waves us right through.

Minka Baja Dog

Pet Traveling Tips

  • Pack your pet's travel paperwork with you just in case.
  • Let the hotel desk clerk meet the dog right away before they jump to conclusions.
  • Check out Baja Bound's Pet Friendly Hotel Guide for hotel ideas in Baja Norte.
  • Pack a chilled towel so when the fun is over you can rub your dog down, cleaning and cooling him/her at the same time.
  • It is recommended to give your pet bottled water.
  • Let your dog play with the local dogs – just keep yours on leash.
  • Bring an extra harness and leash in case for some reason yours snaps in the middle of Baja.
  • Coconut oil soothes hot, sore paws from long walks in the heat.
  • All restaurants are dog friendly if there is outdoor seating – and that’s what Mexico is all about.

My Floating Home - Land of a Billion Projects

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How am I supposed to get a thing done in this world when there are tomatoes to roast, plants to prune, so many mags to rage thru, boats to watch, floors to sweep, wine to drink, chile oil to make, soups to conjure up, lists to make, ideas to hatch, stretches to do, trips to take, trucks to clean, shows to shoot and all that good stuff. 

Yet - here we are.  I'm about to freak on Floor 3 of Flo the next little space of time and in the meantime, the inside is looking good! 

I managed to make it to Tulum for a cooking workshop at Hartwood (and managed a quick trip to Isla Mujeres); I still haven't said a peep about the jungle Belize journey; and the trip I just took to Baja was epic (scouting for a TV show and a new 4WL location) - which I do believe has been found!

More soon on all of those, but in the meantime - time for a Sunday afternoon marg.  I will never really tire of them...

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