Saturday, February 6, 2010

Kayaking on the Rio Grande River

Hi all -- Dianne here. After getting rained out twice, we finally got to take our guided kayaking trip on the Rio Grande River. More on that later!

The snow that our friends back home received this week started out as rain from Mexico that came through here.

How do we spend our time on days like that? This past Wednesday it was raining so much that we didn't even walk the few yards over to the aerobics class, but instead popped in our own video of it right here in the motor home. It's the same one they use at class. (Roger here.... the three-day-a-week aerobics class is a little awkward for me - 30 women, two other men and me. It wouldn't be quite so bad if the very peppy instructor on the tape did not constantly encourage her cohorts to"come on, girls"! Nonetheless, it is good exercise and good for me, if not emasculating.)

Roger then spent some time exercising with a stretch band.
Here's a shot of Chaplin, very puzzled at the goings on and wondering why dad is hogging the couch.

One thing we forgot to mention when we wrote our blog about Bentsen Palm Village RV Resort is that every Tuesday a produce vendor brings his truck and trailer right here and opens a "farmers market" for all of us! We simply walk over with shopping bags and pick from the vast array of produce available. They even have a machine that strips and cores fresh pineapple while you wait. We haven't done that yet, but probably will next Tuesday.

Here's a shot of the produce we came home with last Tuesday. We spent a grand total of $7.50 for all of this!! Between this fresh produce from the local vendor and the wonderful H-E-B Plus grocery store in Mission, we are certainly eating well here in the Rio Grande Valley. We haven't even gone out to eat since we've been here.

I'll turn this over to Roger now to talk about our kayaking excursion. He had the camera in his kayak, so he took all of the photos (that's why there are so many of me and none of him!) We saw some interesting birds but were unable to photo most of them, although Roger did get a good shot of a blue heron roosting in a tree.

I've seen the largest hawks here that I've ever seen! One that we were able to identify when we got back was a Ferruginous Hawk.

We kept seeing large kingfishers flying over us from the Mexico side. I assumed they were belted kingfishers, but I noticed they had a solid brown breast. When we got back to the motorhome, I couldn't find them in either my eastern or western bird guides, but I did find them in my Mexico bird book and they are indeed in this area!

Enough bird-speak; here's Roger:

It was truly an unforgettable morning. The expedition consisted of our leader from Michigan, Steve, who leads three two-hour trips every week. This trip included Lynn, a neighbor from Ohio, Dianne, and me. We followed the trailer full of kayaks a couple of miles down dirt roads and along a levy to the Bentsen Palm Village site on the river. Steve provided the kayaks and the life vests and after short instructions (essentially, don't get out of the kayak on the Mexican side) we were off.

The river is wider than I imagined, and very clean. It was a beautiful day and the water was calm. Even though we went upstream during the first half of the trip, it was an easy paddle in a very slow current. The terrain was pretty much scrub and cactus on the Mexican side and a solid wall of ten-foot grasses on the American side.

Steve provided the commentary along the way, frequently pointing out wildlife and telling stories of the structures that we passed - all on the Mexican side.

The first place of interest was a huge

hacienda (the structure with the arches and the landscaped river front), complete with swimming pool,
tennis courts, and a stable. Steve told us that he recently observed the Mexican Army on the property and, despite the fact that the property continues to be well maintained, he has not seen residents for a couple of years. A fisherman that we passed speculated that the owners may have been involved in drug trafficking.

little further up the river we passed by
several horses. We stopped to watch them for a while in the calm, bucolic setting. (That's our leader, Steve, in the
green kayak). I was able to get a good shot of the Mexican No Trespassing-Private Property sign, a good reminder to stay in the kayaks.
This is obviously the winter season, so we were pretty much alone on the river, even though it was 70 degrees. Steve told us that in the summer the river is alive with boaters, both American and Mexican. It is even a popular place for wake boarding, as shown by the
"Corona" ramp in the middle of the river. Look at Lynn trying to take her kayak up the ramp :-) .
The building with the dome
is a Mexican Casino that is under construction.
Not much action there today, but fun to look at.

I mentioned earlier that there was not much traffic on the river; recreational traffic, that is. We did see our share of the ever-present border patrol. (Three border patrol boats plus a hovering helicopter). I did not photograph them - didn't want to get shot - JUST KIDDING. They were always very friendly. They always slowed down so that the wake from their boats would not overturn our kayaks, and they always gave us a friendly wave. (This is one of the friendliest and most welcoming places we have visited.) The officers on one of the passing boats asked us if we wanted to race them to the dam. I told them, "Only if you give us a big head start."

Steve told us that many Mexicans sneak across the river in this area. He said that one ingenious fellow used to cross in a bathtub that he hid in the
reeds as he went to and from work in Texas every day. He would pull himself back and forth using cables hidden in the river bottom. We did see car tires for floating across and a few young men who seemed to be waiting for us to go out of sight around the bend. It was odd, but none of this made me feel uncomfortable, only sad for their plight.

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