Leslie Answers Jill Crossland’s Interview Questions. September 2013

Could you briefly describe what La Mula Mil is? 

La Mula Mil, (literally The Mule 1000) is an extended mule packing trip along the entire length of the Baja Penisula.  We will be riding from San Jose del Cabo in the south to Tecate in the north.  We anticipate spending four, possibly five months riding on mules; sleeping and living in the desert.  We decided on this particular trip to celebrate the almost unheard of Meling Expedition that did this 50 years ago.  

 Who is participating? What do you each of you bring to the journey? 

There are three main riders on the trip.  Leslie Pringle, Trudi  Angell and Olivia Angell who will be riding the entire length of the Baja peninsula. At various times others will join in as paying guests. 

We have:

Olivia-24 years old-almost the same age as Eve Ewing when she did the trip 50 years ago.  Eve is the inspiration for the recreation of the Meling Expedition.  Olivia will be doing the pre-trip “gopher work” and camp chores when we have paying guests as well as handling a lot of the filming end of things for our adventure. She will have a bilingual blog about La Mula Mil and assist with the Spanish entries on our Facebook page. She is fully bilingual and bi-cultural.   She has also ridden extensively with her mom from a very young age, completing a 6 week “long ride” when she was just 9 years old.

Trudi-58-has lived in the Baja for 30 years and has run an adventure company the whole time.  She is the logistics queen.  She knows all the right people to make this happen.  Without the locals as guides, not just for the trails, but more importantly for the watering holes, this trip would not be possible. She is also a wonderful organizer-on-the-fly, camp hostess, cook, singer and person.  There are very few people I can imagine doing this type of trip with. Trudi is one of them.

Leslie-51-is the documenter of the trip. Her vision is to create a coffee table book of the two expeditions, overlaying the changes that time has wrought, good or bad.  She will be visually journaling the trip and interacting with the paying guests when they join in on select portions of the trip.  She will be the main photographer and will assist with the filming in order to produce a documentary on the trip.  Social media sites such as Facebook and blogging (under “wrrldgrrl”) will be her responsibility.  She is also the fundraiser for the pre and post trip portion of the planning. You can find (and fund!) the Indiegogo campaign here (the campaign has now closed). And on behalf of Coins for Classrooms she will also be dropping off some school supplies at various schools enroute. 

Would I be wrong in saying that there is a physical, mental and even spiritual preparedness needed before embarking on an expedition of this nature?

You are completely right in saying that.  One needs a certain level of physical fitness for this journey, yes, but the mental fitness is the most important. We are talking about a 4-5 month trip, over a thousand miles on mules. We will be looking for camp spots and/or beds each night, preparing food, interacting with the natural environment and the locals but also with paying guests, researchers and everyone else en route.  Riding to the various missions on a pilgrimage of sorts is a common undertaking at this time of year, we will be sharing the trails with a lot of people at time, and then with no-one at other times.  One of the most challenging aspects will be to move in and out of the headspace required to successfully navigate the needs of the people involved with each situation.  We will also be blogging and uploading to social media when the opportunity presents itself. This will be one of the most psychological of the challenges as we will be in a very rugged physical world that requires a certain mindset, then we will have to jump back into the 21st century and out again.  We could just “fall off the planet” for four months or so, but we would like to raise awareness of safe travel opportunities in Baja California as well for the NGO’s each of us has chosen to work with. Trudi and myself both have businesses that need to be run while we are gone, and Olivia will be waiting to hear back about her thesis application, so from a mental standpoint we all have things to keep us tied to the world we are in some ways, leaving behind for a while. 

As to spiritual preparedness, that is a personal journey so I can speak only for myself.  My  experience with travel has been very spiritual, which is one of the reasons I keep doing this rugged form of exploration. The more I go “outside” into the physical realm, the more I discover of myself “inside” in the spiritual realm.  My connection with the earth grows each time I immerse myself in remote areas.  This is one of the most exciting aspects of this trip for me. 

Every expedition has its realistic goals and also a few ‘wouldn’t it be amazing if we ……….’ goals. Can you share some of each?

Realistically we all fully expect to ride the entire length of Baja peninsula in four, possibly five months.  Trudi and her daughter Olivia both think it is be amazing that they will be wrapping up unfinished business in that they have already ridden a good portion of the Baja in bits and pieces over the years but have talked about riding it all in one go as well. Trudi is truly hopeful that the recent rains from hurricanes will provide enough feed for the animals so that we have to bring in a minimal amount for them. A little more winter rain would help, but as it can go years without raining we will just have to wait and see.

Olivia hopes that Eve can ride with us enough to fill in some of the blank spaces of her own map from back in the 60’s. She joined late and had to leave early.

Trudi and Leslie both wish for people to see that the world is not as scary as we are led to believe it is.  It is our hope that humans can recognize each other’s humanity and learn to enjoy the world outside their own boundaries, both physical and emotional.

We all have hoped for the enthusiastic support of our remaining riders from the Meling Expedition.  After spending the majority of a day, with three of the orignial riders, we  are relieved to have been sent off with hugs and well-wishes and offers of places to stay anytime we are around. 

As exciting as this journey is it is not without risks. What are some of your concerns/fears as you venture forth? 

We are all extremely experienced and comfortable in this setting so our concerns are simple: will there be enough food and water for the animals, will something happen in the outside world to pull one of us off of the trip or could we have a falling out that is too big to fix. 

Many people have expressed their concerns on our behalf in regards to drug runners.  There may be some activities of concern around the border, but we are finishing up before planting season, and will use knowledgeable, well-connected local guides to make sure we stay out of anyone’s territory. We will be notifying the authourities as we approach these areas so that it is well known that we are passing through.  This is simply a precaution-there are even parts of our own country that we know to avoid. 

What are the dates for la Mula Mil? Is there any way the readers can support your efforts? And how can they follow you? 

Our ride will begin November 3 2013 in San Jose del Cabo.  We will take a break for Christmas and New Year’s around San Ignacio then continue in January so we can finish up inTecate in March of 2014.

Our La Mula Mil Facebook  page has been active for a short time so we could really use some likes and especially shares to build our number of followers.  We are just launching our Indiegogo fundraising campaigns as we need more resources to get through the entire trip. We already have a sponsor who will be paying the guiding fees for two months but we do need to organize some more patrons. 

This adventure will be blogged about, addresses are just being finalized. (Olivia’s blog. Leslie’s blog.)

We each have a favourite non-profit that part of any excess funding will go to, Coins for Classrooms Living Roots Baja,  and Mujeres del Golfo.  

We have an email address,  lamulamil@gmail.com  if you need to contact directly and aren’t on Facebook.  As we will be mainly off-grid, please be patient until we can get back to you.

One thing I would love to share that doesn’t fit into the questions you have asked us Jill, is how honoured we were to help orchestrate the reunion of Eve Ewing, Andy Meling and Joanne Alford. It was the first time the three of them had been together since they said good bye in La Paz in 1964!  But to say we organized that would be such a stretch, it was synchronicity that allowed it all to fall into place.  There were a number of people who ended up in the right place at the right time just by coincidence!

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La Mula Mil: Parallels Between an Expedition and a Business.

I and three other women are currently on a four month expedition in Baja California in Mexico. We are riding mules the entire length of the peninsula. That’s about 1000 miles of riding!  Before we even got onto a mule I was asked if I would write a monthly column for a women’s business e-zine.  That magazine has unfortunately folded, but as I am already half-way through the series, I thought I would continue the writing.  I’ll create a separate section here on the blog for it. At the end of each article I ask a question or two. Please do comment, either on the questions or share your own thoughts.  Thanks in advance for your participation. Image

Traveller’s Tip: Germ Gateways.

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Germs, viruses, bugs, need a way into your system to make you sick. The fastest way is through the mucous membranes.  So, if you are in the habit of rubbing your eyes, pulling on your lips, picking your nose, cut it out.  You’ll stay healthier and look better too! 🙂

Traveller’s Tip: Well, this is more a Stay Put tip but…:-)

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To make your own hummingbird feeder:

You will need:

a 500 ml bottle indented a few centimetres from the bottom

a 100 gram plastic container with a tight fitting lid

string for hanging

red “flowers” of some sort (or ribbons or ? as an attractant)

a way to make holes in plastic, either a drill or knife or ?

nectar

a cup of coffee (or tea if you prefer)

 Hummingbird Nectar

The nectar is super easy to make but needs to be done ahead of time so it is cool:

boil 500 mls of water

add 125 mls of sugar

stir till sugar is absorbed

put in fridge to cool

Always use real sugar, the birds need the calories to survive. Don’t ever use artificial sweeteners.

Tip: Every few days, (or more often if you see signs of mould or other growth) take your feeder apart to thoroughly clean it in hot water then reassemble with fresh nectar.

(instructions adapted from this Wonder How to Do It post)

Feed the Birds, Feed the Soul.

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Today I made a hummingbird feeder.

I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of days now, so yesterday I shelled out a few pesos to google “homemade hummingbird feeders”. I got lots of websites, but they all required purchasing some special components then essentially assembling the feeder. When you live in a place that has ready access to such supplies, and when you have a bit of extra cash, it doesn’t even occur to you there are other options. But I am still recovering from the flu, so instead of continuing to ride north on the 1000 mile mule ride I am on, (La Mula Mil) I am staying at Trudi’s, my friend’s house in small town San Ignacio in Baja California Sur on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico and I am watching my pesos and my energy. And even if I wasn’t, there wouldn’t be anywhere for me to buy a “hummingbird feed tube attachment as illustrated.”. 

So, I kept looking. I knew there had to be away to make one from stuff I could find laying around. Once upon a time I could have figured the whole thing out myself, but in the busyness of life, I seemed to have shut off the creative side of my brain sometime in the last few years.

Sure enough I finally found a website. It had a hand-sketched plan for making a hummingbird feeder from found items. It did call for the use of a power drill, which I definitely didn’t have access to, but that’s ok, it was only for going through plastic, I knew I could hack that myself.

So, I rooted through a pile of bottles in the yard until I found a couple that had an indented ring near the bottom, (which will be the top really) so that it would be easier to securely hang it with string. I then found some string in a basket near the plates in the kitchen. (Isn’t that where everyone keeps their string?) I had previously stumbled across Trudi’s stash of plastic ware in the unused oven that serves as a support for the two burner propane stovetop (remember, this is small town Mexico-everything gets re-purposed here!) so I had a small clear plastic container with a tight fitting lid.

I was a bit stuck on the red required to attract hummingbirds. I didn’t have any food colouring, which shouldn’t ever be put in the nectar anyways, it’s bad for the birds. I didn’t have a red felt marker to draw designs, which is just as well as I do girly-girl drawings like flowers and hearts about as well as Charlie Brown flies a kite and is likely the real reason I didn’t become a teacher. Well, that and I didn’t go to university.

Then I remembered that I had a red plastic bag from goodness knows what purchase in what airport, but I figured I could cut it into strips with the little tiny thread scissors I have in my sewing kit.

Now all that was left to do was to come up with a drill substitute. No worries, I was working with plastic, so instead of using a keyhole spade to cut a hole in the container lid wide enough to accept the mouth of the drink bottle, I drew a circle the exact size of said mouth and used my knife to cut an X inside of it so I could work the mouth through then trim off the excess plastic. As you can see from the picture, I didn’t get it in the exact centre, so those of you who know me are already laughing at how barmy it is driving me that it is not perfectly balanced.

Now that I had the hardest part done I moved into the kitchen and heated up the awl on my pocket knife. Well, it’s not really an awl, but it is a Phillips screwdriver head, so close enough for this project. I stuck it in the flame of the propane stove then pushed it through from the top of the lid to the bottom. I wiggled it as it went to make the hole a little bigger. The awl gets really hot, you should avoid touching it with your thumb knuckle. As per usual, I learnt that the hard way, but luckily I was right next to the sink so I could stick my thumb under the cold water.

I made four holes in the container lid for the hummingbirds to sip through, that’s why I wanted the pointy bits pointing into the container so they couldn’t get caught up in them. Then I flipped the whole contraption upside down, so that I could make a hole in the drink lid for the nectar to get through to the clear container. You have to heat the awl even hotter to get through the heavy plastic of the drink lid. Make sure you are still near the sink so that when you accidentally put your finger on the awl you can quickly put it under the cold water to cool it down. Just saying… then again, you are likely not as clumsy as me and either didn’t repeat the earlier mistake or burn yourself the first time even.

Once all the melting of plastic (and burning of flesh) was done, I poured in half the nectar I made yesterday, screwed the drink lid on tight and poured the other half of the nectar in the clear container. Next was the trickiest part, flipping the bottle over so that the nectar would drip into the clear container and pressing the lid of the container on firmly so that when it is hung up it all stays together. I almost did it the other way, yep, almost picked up the container of nectar and turned it over to push it onto the feeder. Luckily I caught myself in time and avoided a “d’oh” moment and a big sugary, ant-attracting mess. I had considered putting all the nectar into the bottle then squeezing it into the container part when it was all assembled but thought that I had a pretty good chance of squeezing too hard and somehow blowing the lid off and making (say it with me!) a big, sugary, ant-attracting mess.

So, then all that was needed was to tie the hanging string around the bottle, add some red ribbons and voila! Hummingbird feeder!

I found a nail already in a beam in the palapa outside the kitchen and managed to hang it up without falling off the chair. Around the area I also added some “flowers” I made from the red bag to further increase my chances of attracting some beautiful flying jewels. 

Then I sat back and enjoyed the rest of my coffee. As I sat there, I ruminated on how much I have always enjoyed making crafty kinda things, and how little of it I have done in the last decade or so. Somehow the fun stuff in life slipped away, replaced by work stuff. Today I rediscovered that joy. Is my feeder “pretty”? No, not really, but I made it myself, it cost me an hour of time and a half cup of sugar. And it will give me hours and hours of pleasure while helping out my feathered friends.

 

 

 

My Father’s Daughter.

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I grew up mainly in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada. I am the oldest, so the first couple of years my mother and I followed my dad’s work in the backwoods of BC. He was a miner and a driller, my mom would sometimes cook for the camp or just take care of me. 

As my siblings came along we settled in Vancouver where my mom had grown up. Dad still worked out of town so we saw him for a couple of weeks every three months or so. Him being on the road was just part of our life. 

When you would ask him how the trip back was, his reply was simply stated as a number of hours. As in, how long it took him. “Hey dad-how was the drive down from Prince George?” His reply-”13 hours”. If he could shave some time off the trip, it was considered to have been a better trip, or so I assumed anyways. 

As the years went by and I got old enough to do my own travelling as a teenager, I too felt the compulsion to get places quickly. “Gotta get there, gotta get there” said the voice in my head. I knew there were things to see but I liked being out front and getting there. 

On bike tours I enjoyed swooping down the hill as fast as possible, although I did learn that if you are towing a bike trailer, that really needs to be a slower speed or you go sideways through the intersection. 

On hikes I enjoyed pushing myself to see how long I could go without a break. Sometimes I barely stopped at the summit to enjoy the view. “Gotta get there, gotta get there”. I often hiked alone and on those days I motored through viewpoints and lunchstops so that I could shave a bit of time off my previous best. “How was the hike Les?” “13 hours!” Ok, well, maybe it was five or eight or even two hours but you get my point I am sure. 

I had friends who hiked quickly, but my two best friends tended to be slower hikers, so I had to learn to move at their pace if I wanted to enjoy my time with them. But in my head I heard that voice, “gotta get there, gotta get there”. 

As I moved into young adulthood I took up photography. There is no way you can move quickly and do photography. You can take snapshots, but you can’t craft great photographs if you are in a hurry. Sometimes you need to get to a certain place by a certain time to get the shot you want, in those cases the “gotta get there” voice comes in handy, but for the most part you just can’t be in a hurry if you want to get the pictures you are aiming for. 

When I was raising my kids, there was always something else demanding my attention; work or later my own business, or my daughter’s therapy appointments or changing laundry loads or something. Still that voice, “gotta get there, gotta get there”. Always a drive to produce, to have things right. There were so many things I was chasing that I didn’t have a perfect house, I wasn’t wonder mom, I was just always chasing those ever-elusive next things on my list.

I knew that I was missing moments, but when I “got there”, when I had enough done, when enough projects were completed, when the paperwork was finished, when the Christmas baking was done, then there would be more time to enjoy the moments.

So many things I missed. The worst part was, even then, I knew that I was missing moments. But I could not stop moving. 

When I began to travel overseas and spend time in third world countries, I couldn’t help but notice, that once you left the cities, people had time to say hello. It didn’t matter if it was Mexico or Nepal or Tanzania, they had time to enjoy the view. I knew then and I know now that their lives are difficult, I hold no romantic notion that poverty allows for a generosity of spirit. But somehow there did seem to be time for at least a hello and a smile. 

I have travelled to Mexico many times. Not to all-inclusives, but to small towns mainly or rural areas. I don’t speak Spanish really, just enough to stumble along if the listener is able to glean intent from my mangling of grammar and pronunciation. I looked around me and saw that even when there were dirt floors and less than solid walls most houses were very clean. Most of the food was made from scratch. It was a lot of work to live like this. Many people back home would comment that “if they worked off the ranch, or harder, or more hours or something” that the folks in rural Mexico would be able to buy more, to have more stuff. Maybe, maybe not. I think that other people who aren’t as bogged down with stuff, look at us, and think that if we weren’t always working to pay for stuff we didn’t need, we would have time to say hello to each other and even enjoy a cup of tea. 

I think my whole culture is caught up with “gotta get there” thinking. The thing is though, we don’t know where “there” is. 

I for one, am learning to enjoy a cup of tea. 🙂