Casa Hogar Los Angelitos

We found Casa Hogar Los Angelitos while wandering the busy streets of Manzanillo, Mexico. The home was first started by an american woman named, Nancy Nystrom, following the loss of her son, Fred. In 1994 she founded The Children’s Foundation, a 501c3 corporation located in Colorado and in 1995 Nancy founded the Mexican Civil Association Casa Hogar Los Angelitos for the purpose of rescuing and changing the lives of children in extreme circumstances.

The home is currently home to about 95 children and they are one of the few homes that allow the children who have reached the age of 18 to continue living on site and continue their studies or work until they can support themselves. It was a surprise visit and we found all the children well cared for and the facilities very clean. When we asked what their current needs were, they very simple: rice beans, meat, pasta, cooking oil, underwear for the smaller children, diapers, wet wipes, menstrual pads for the teenagers and hygiene supplies like handsanitizer and toothpaste. The only major need that we weren’t able to meet at the time was for well made, collapsable chairs. When we visited, the children were eating in shifts since there were not enough chairs for them all to sit together at once. Many of their old chairs had broken or were rusting out and not very safe for the children to use.

To contact Casa Hogar Los Angelitos directly to see what their current needs are, provide monthly support, sponsor a child or set up a visit, https://www.tcfcares.org

More information on the home from their website: “Casa Hogar Los Angelitos (CHLA) is a unique children’s home. Children from infancy and up find a safe place of healing to call home.  Helping each child, regardless of previous circumstances, reach his or her full potential and dreams is the guiding principle. To break the cycle of poverty and positively change the life of each child is the ultimate goal. CHLA provides 24-hour care in a family-like setting, with emotional, mental and medical care, education, spiritual foundation, English and Expressive Arts classes. Education is a proven avenue to breaking the cycle of poverty. All school age children at CHLA attend school. Accommodations are made for those with learning disabilities and full-time tutors are provided for all children. Children are not sent back to the streets at a certain age but are encouraged to stay in school and to follow their dreams. After high school, students are encouraged to go to trade school or university.

For many years CHLA has offered classes in the Expressive Arts. Dance, music, vocal, painting, arts & crafts are part of the daily life at CHLA. This has proven to be invaluable in helping the children to heal emotional traumas; stay focused in school and encourages self-confidence with cultural pride and understanding. The emphasis on the arts sets CHLA apart and helps to make it a unique and successful program.

CHLA opened its doors in 1996 with 7 children in a storefront in Manzanillo Mexico.  In 1995, before CHLA was officially open, a soup kitchen was started to help feed the children who were living on the street or in extreme poverty. The catalyst for intervening for the children of Mexico by founder Nancy Nystrom was the deep grief she experienced after the death of her son.  Through that difficult journey she felt God’s call to make a difference in the world around her.

CHLA is a Civil Association (non-profit) under Mexican law. It is not a religious or government organization. CHLA’s major funding comes from individuals, businesses, fundraising events, grants and service clubs.

‘I realized during the early years of this work that providing nutrition for hungry children was life-saving and important. Empty stomachs need to be filled…. However, I knew that we needed to do more than rescue children and fill their stomachs. We needed to fill their hearts and their minds as well.'”

Surfing a Shipwreck – Manzanillo and Santiago Bay

Manzanillo is Mexico’s largest port city, handling all of the cargo for Mexico City. It is also known as the sailfish capital of the world and one of Mexico’s top sport fishing destinations. With 350 days of sun a year, it’s a great vacation destination offering two beautiful bays, Bahia Santiago and Bahia Manzanillo, with warm water, surfing, snorkeling, delicious food and seaside resorts.

We arrived in Bahia Santiago with Carly still onboard and we enjoyed the next few days surfing off the Western point. Unfortunately with the waves I also caught some urchin spines.

Dance party in between sets.
Digging out urchin spines.

Right in front of the surf beak is the wreck of the San Luciano. A 300′ steel cargo ship that was damaged and sunk in the 1959 Category 5 hurricane.

Carly Shredding with the wreck of San Luciano in the background.

One day while out walking around town and eating some of the best tacos we’ve ever had, we stumbled upon Iguanario Archundia, and iguana sanctuary that began over forty years ago when Señor Ramon Medina Archundia rescued a pair of iguanas. Since then, Ramon has dedicated his life to the preservation of Mexico’s endangered iguanas. The sanctuary is located in the center of Manzanillo and is home to over 600 iguanas, as well as several other species of rescued wild animals.

FRESH TORTILLAS!!! Manzanillo had some of the best tacos we’ve ever had.

Ramon and his father set up this small enclosure in a marshy space in downtown Manzanillo, where two huamúchil trees offered the perfect place for his sunbathing iguanas. Before he knew it, word got out about the sanctuary and locals from all over town and eventually the state began bringing in rescued iguanas and animals.

Ramon Senior feeding his beloved iguanas.

Iguanas have been hunted nearly to the point of extinction here in Mexico, either for their hides, or to be sold as pets. Although it’s not an ideal home, the Iguanario Archundia is a safe place for the iguanas and other animals to live. Entrance is free and they receive no governmental support, so any donates are welcomed.

Taking care of over 600 iguanas is no small task, considering that they consume about 400 pounds of food a day, but Ramon has managed to do it for many years. Every day, he visits the local markets in Manzanillo to collect hundreds of pounds of fruits and vegetables from like-minded animal lovers who are more than happy to contribute to his cause.

Ramon Junior and one of his raccoons.
Josh holding a beautiful boa.

While we were visiting, Señor Ramon was out, but his son also named Ramon was there and showed us around the sanctuary. Most of the other animals that live there were brought in as babies and were not able to be released back out into the wild. Since these animals have known Ramon their whole lives, they literally start shaking with excitement as he approaches, the huge boars would wiggle head to tail and jump up on the walls to greet him, and the coati would squeak and squeal as he rubbed their bellies. We normally hate seeing animals kept in cages but seeing these animals so in love with their caretaker made us realize how much care went into taking care of these amazing animals.

While chatting with Ramon, we mentioned that we were anchored over in Santiago Bay, where it turns out is his favorite fishing spot that he visits on the weekends. We made plans to meet up the next morning and to go out fishing with him and his friends. He kayaked out to our boat just as the sun was rising the next morning and we motored around the corner in our dingy to some near by rock formations. His two friends were spearfishing, so Weston and I jumped in with them, while Ramon and Rachel cast from the dingy.  Ramon also was kind enough to look through our tackle and let us know what worked best in the area, what we didn’t have he gave us. We offered to pay him for the lures, but he was almost offended and he made it clear they were a gift. He was so stoked to check out Agape, and we were thankful for a new friend.

If you are ever in the state of Colima, definitely try to make it out to Iguanario Archundia!

Adult Playground: Barra de Navidad and San Patricio

Barra is another place that I had heard about from my parents and other cruisers as being a must see, and a place where cruisers of all ages could resort back to childhood by playing on the resort’s waterslides, eating chocolate croissants for breakfast, and hiking to secluded beaches.

Beautiful Barra de Navidad

Rachel and I had never navigated a shallow channel like the one that leads from the marina into the lagoon, and we were very nervous. We had been told, “Don’t worry when you run aground on your way in, everyone does, it will be fine it’s just mud, so go slow.”

I had no intention of running aground though, even if it was just a soft mud bottom.

Awesome shot captured by our drone of the entrance to Barra and the lagoon.
Sunset raft up party with Halcyon and Sloboda.
Agape looking good at anchor!

As we began to pass the marina on our way into the inner lagoon, I slowed us down to a crawl and asked Rachel to go forward and yell if she saw anything. Luckily we hadn’t even passed the marina when a fellow cruiser came racing up in his dingy to ask if we knew where the channel was. He was heading back to his boat and yelled, “Just point up towards the red boat and follow me!!!”. So off we went, trusting that this man knew what he was talking about. A couple of minutes later we were safely anchored with 4 feet under the keel.

Another beautiful Barra sunset.
One of Barra’s many dock parties!
This man is dangerous. No one is safe. No one can say no to his chocolate croissants and quiches!

The marina and it’s facilities are suppose to be for guests only, but at least while we were here, as long as you bought a couple drinks at the bar they didn’t seem to mind if you lounged by the pools. On any given day you might find eight to ten other cruisers sneaking in with you and it’s easy to see why. They have a swim up bar, two waterslides, water aerobics classes, pool volleyball and enough lounge chairs for us all to lay around soaking up even more unneeded sun.

Rachel’s best friend Carly came down for a visit. Here she is shredding some baby waves.

Barra also offers a water taxi service that will pick you up directly from your boat and take you into the marina or the town just across the way. It’s a great way to get off the boat and get to shore to explore, eat some delicious food, surf or hike without having to worry about where to safely tie up your dingy.

Another day, another game!
Barra’s crowded lineup.

The town just north of Barra is called San Patricio de Melaque, named after the Irish soldiers, called the “San Patricios”, who had defected from the U.S. Army during the 1846-48 Mexican-American War. Their exact motives for switching sides isn’t clear, but it’s thought to have been because of the harsh treatment and anti-Catholic prejudice at the time. The Mexicans viewed the San Patricios as heroes and have named streets, towns and festivals in there honor, and it just so happened that we were in town on St. Patrick’s Day, a day this town comes alive! Every night for a week they shoot off massive amounts of fireworks and have a huge carnival with food vendors, rides and games. Only here, instead of winning a teddy bear you win a 32oz Pacifico as a prize!

The master!

The whole central square is full of people celebrating, and starting at around 10pm they light off these crazy firework towers followed by men running through the crowd with welded metal cages shaped like bulls and covered in fireworks that shoot off into the crowd. They call this the running of the bulls and it was unclear to us after asking around where this tradition came from.

The kids here stand under the flaming towers with small pieces of cardboard over their heads and they run up the and grab the fireworks that fall and are shot off the towers and throw them back into the crowd! Afterwards while talking to some of the kids, we learned it’s sort of a game to get as close as you can, and even good luck to get a little burned or have some hair singed. We kind of think that it’s more that they are just being 10 year old boys and want to play with fireworks. 

Check out this little firecracker!

For the most part this is not done out of malice but fun, and everyone seemed to be watching and in on the game. After awhile though it got a little out of control. 

Central Park of San Patricio.
Pure chaos.

On the last night of the celebration and for the grand finally of the show, the whole top section of the largest flaming firework structure starts to spin and eventually enough fireworks light on it that it actually lifts off and flies up into the air. But what goes up must come down! And as the fireworks start to die, this flaming ball plummets back to earth and into the middle of the crowd!!!

Needless to say we loved it!!!! We had never seen anything like this back at home where there are so many rules and regulations at events and anything involving fireworks.

Group hike to Secret Beach.
White wash body surfing.

We spent about two weeks here lounging by the resort’s rooftop pool and exploring the surrounding area. Here area few more of our favorite photos from our time in Barra!

Morning yoga by the pool.
Jump

Breaking the Mold: Tenacatita and La Manzanilla

After three weeks of being tied up to a dock, we were ready to get back out on the water and anchor in some of the less populated bays. 90nm to the south and around from Cabo Corrientes was the next good anchorage of Chamela. We left Banderas Bay from La Cruz around 1pm so could arrive in Chamela well after sun up.

We luckily had a mellow sail around Cabo Corientes. After talking to some fellow
cruisers about how rough that point can be we were glad we only had light wind.

Arriving into Chamela after an almost windless night on a glassy sea, Rachel and I were very tired. Although it was an easy night passage, we hadn’t had night watches in weeks.

The anchorage here is protected to the N/NW by a large point and extending reef, but boats tend to huddle near the cliffs to hide from the wind and chop that can sometimes come up in the late afternoon.

The anchorage here doesn’t have much going on onshore, just a small neighborhood, a few palapa restaurants and the occasional fishing panga unloading their catch on the beach.

We loved it here and spent our days sailing down to the nearby island of Isla San Pedro or the Cocinas islands to swim and snorkel. It was a little nerve racking going over to these small islands as you have to cross a very shallow sand bar, but it was definitely worth it! At these islands we explored an awesome cave with thousands of bats, spent hours snorkeling and walking up and down the almost deserted beach, and just lounging in the cockpit.

A beautiful red moon rising.

Every evening the wind would pick back up pushing the swells in between the small islands and over their shallow reefs making our daytime anchorage a little less comfortable, so we would raise the anchor and sails and head back to the more protected anchorage of Chamela for sunset.

We spent a few days here before sailing the 30 miles down to Tenacatita, but in hindsight I wish we would have spent more time at those little islands. It was one of the only places we really felt like we were cruising. No big cities, no other boats, just beautiful islands and a small fishing village.

Playa Chamela

Again, it was light wind sailing and more motoring than we would’ve liked to make it into Tenecatita. Truth be told we could have sailed/drifted more but when the boat speed drops to 2/2.5 knots I tend to get a little antsy and click on the engine.

122nm south of La Cruz is the large and fairly well protected bay of Tenacatita. My parents had told me stories about their time cruising in here. The month they spent here had been filled with swimming and snorkeling in the clear water, bocce ball, beach games and bon fires. We were hopping to find the same clear water and cruiser filled beach that they had experienced.

Red tide in the anchorage.

Unfortunately for us the clear water evaded us, but the rest rang true.  We were a little late in the season and had arrived after the water had turned green. A phenomenon I had no idea about. Apparently this bay has clear water for the first few months of the cruising season, and then one day it turns and for the rest of the year it’s green and murky. Because the water had turned, most cruisers had left making the bay a little quiet, but over the next few days a few other boats trickled in along with a crazy red tide, and with it, tiny shrimp like creatures which made the visibility even worse.

When most people think of the average cruiser, a retired, slightly salty, bearded old man, most likely wearing cut off shorts and a funny hat comes to mind. Well, I’m proud to say that in Tenacatita we broke the mold! Out of the 8 cruising boats in the anchorage, I think the average age was 36 years old.

One afternoon our friends on the catamaran, She’s No Lady kindly offered to take all 15 cruisers out on their boat to La Manzanilla, two and a half miles across the bay to check out the crocodile sanctuary.

Carly and her new friend.
Check out the face on this old boy!

This was one definitely one of the highlights of our time in Mexico! In the States, a place like this would have large concrete walk ways with a 10ft high fence and… you know what? They wouldn’t have anything like this in the States, not even close! Here we walked just a foot or two above these massive crocodiles on creaky wooden bridges and walk ways, with gaps in the fence big enough to reach down and pet them if you were crazy enough to want to do so. It was amazing to see these guys so close up!

Eye spy with my little eye, one very large crocodile.
Taking the dingy up the mangroves in search of crocodiles!!! We never did see any here, but the mangroves had tons of birds and butterflies.