We’re Sprouting!

February 26, 2015 by

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Plava Viva prides itself on providing its guests with healthful, nourishing, delicious food. Our permaculture gardens provide a good portion of this, and what we can’t produce ourselves we get from trusted local producers and the small farms surrounding the Joluchuca area.

The latest addition to the Playa Viva table is thanks to the work of one of our volunteers, Silvio, who had a notion to provide our kitchen with a steady supply of fresh sprouts! With the help of Serafin, our resident carpenter, Silvio created a sprouting frame which now sits in the kitchen and is home to several jars of soon-to-be delicious sprouts.

Here are some shots of the project taking shape:

Yet another delicious reason to join us at Playa Viva!

Meet the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

February 19, 2015 by

Today was a special day at Playa Viva, in that it marked the release of a nest of tiny baby Olive Ridley sea turtles into the ocean. As you may know, Playa Viva is home to a sea turtle sanctuary, which protects the eggs and releases the hatchlings of both Olive Ridley and Leatherback sea turtles.

Today's hatchlings taking their first steps! #seaturtles #tortugas #conservation #playaviva

A video posted by Playa Viva (@playaviva) on

Want to know more? Here are some fun facts about the Olive Ridley:

Endangered status: Threatened, with an estimated 800,000 females in the wild

Lifespan: 30-50 years

Size: Adults can reach up to 85 pounds, making the Olive Ridley one of the smallest of the sea turtles

Nesting behaviour: The Olive Ridley is known for a unique nesting behavior known as an arribata. In this, nesting females gather offshore, before simultaneously making their way to the beach, where they bury their eggs in the sand in one mass nesting event.

Range: Olive Ridleys have been spotted up to 2,400 miles from shore

Sources and further reading:

http://www.conserveturtles.org/seaturtleinformation.php?page=olive-ridley

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/oliveridley.htm

http://www.nestonline.org/OliveRidleySeaTurtle.htm  

Buggin’ Out

February 17, 2015 by

 

A Giant Water Bug, Lethocerus americanus, I found curled up next to a garden hose.

A Giant Water Bug, Lethocerus americanus. I found her curled up next to a garden hose.

One of the reasons people come to Playa Viva is the wide variety of flora and fauna to be found here. I was no exception, and was eagerly anticipating getting to know all of the living creatures to be found here. Mexico is a hugely biodiverse country, and Playa Viva itself contains multiple ecosystems including dunes, mangroves, estuary lagoons, deciduous forest and wetland. As a result, the surrounding environment is an amateur naturalist’s paradise.

Anyone know what these are? I found them almost covering the trunk of a tree along the road  to Playa Viva

Anyone know what these are? I found them almost covering the trunk of a tree along the road to Playa Viva.

My first night here, stepping outside for some fresh air in the wee hours of the morning, I came upon a tiny, amber-coloured scorpion scurrying across the steps of the volunteer house in Juluchuca. Subsequently, I’ve discovered all manner of many-legged critters crawling around the environs, including a large brown tarantula, just hanging out on the wall of the house in the early morning.

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A tarantula visiting the Juluchuca house (Photo: Lynda Curtis)

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Small but powerful! (Photo: Lynda Curtis)

 

Of course, Playa Viva isn’t only known for its abundant insect life – next I’m off to find some sea turtles!

Volunteers Come and Go….

February 17, 2015 by

The following is an article written by Samantha Orive as she completes her tour of duty as a volunteer at Playa Viva.  

2015-01-17 07.00.50Mornings in the quiet town of Juluchuca Guerrero start with a morning concerto starring the local roosters. Although rehearsals go on all throughout the day, it seems that the five am showing not only has the most beautiful voices, but there is a feeling of encouragement that manages to clear the mind and allows you to find energy for the long day ahead.

A much ruder awakening awaits you in the back of a pick up truck. A feeling of recklessness hits your stomach (not unlike a double scotch would) when you are going 80 km/hr and that sexy morning chill always comes on too strong, raising goosebumps in your arms and adventurous intentions in your thoughts.  A sense of well being spreads though out your body, it is not yet seven am and you are drunk on circumstance and high on life.

You come to doubt if Van Gogh’s starry night should actually be considered a masterpiece once you look at the canvass over you. The stars not only seem to perfectly describe their chosen constellation names, but to sit you on their comforting knees and whisper their tales in your ears. Orion The Hunter looks bright enough to jump out from the sky and continue his hunt on earth, followed closely by his loyal dogs. We all paint clumsy brushstrokes in our minds, never truly capturing the mysterious beauty of the sky.

2015-02-11 11.21.21Volunteers come and go, looking for something, someone, running from something, or maybe someone. And while you are digging trenches, weeding the relentless verdolagas, or planting row upon row of lettuce, you forget why you are here or maybe even who you are. Dirt finds its way under your nails, it changes the hue of your eyes and when it reaches your heart you conclude the questions are invalid and the answers are futile. Dirt is the absolute here.

Hunger. There is a deep hunger to learn, know, experience and share; but there is a more literal hunger that strikes exactly at eight thirty am. Stomachs rumble keeping tune with the sea and images of plump fresh handmade tortillas, dozens of eggs drowned in salsa verde, and those evil cups of coffee that seduce the strongest of wills with promises of productivity and stability come to mind. There is an instant gratification after meals at Playa Viva that turn into future life dilemmas, for how on earth will I go back to store bought tortillas?

A hammock is not merely a handy set of strings to rest, but a way of living. Within it lies enough entertainment for every evening. The trees like to divert you playing shadows with the sun, the characters in your book grow impossibly difficult to walk away off, and conversations with friends brim with candor and emotion. In the steady swaying of a hammock, a soundness anchors in the foundations of that little white house in Juluchuca.

2015-01-07 06.45.21The sun does not like goodbyes, it prefers a quick painful farewell at six forty two pm, and if you look away from the horizon you will miss it. The best comforting remedy is named Vicky, who is always more attractive when accompanied by just gathered limes and thick local salt. She may be cold hearted, but after a flirtatious conversation with her she will warm up your insides and you know you will fall deliciously in love with her every night.

The answers are there of course. The seeds will sprout in record time, the muscles will ache with pleasure, the children will laugh in bare feet, the skin will darken, the women will launder by the river, the men will sing their melancholic tunes, the smiles will grow more genuine, and at the end of the day it will not only be the sun saying a painful goodbye.

 

Possums Gone Wild

February 16, 2015 by

Playa Viva’s wildlife got a taste of fame recently, thanks to a visit from noted biologist and Stanford educator, Paul Ehrlich. During his stay, Ehrlich and his team set up four “camera traps”  to get a candid glimpse of some of the local fauna, with surprising results. A digital camera rigged to a motion sensor, a camera trap can (with the addition of some well-placed bait) capture the nighttime rovings of otherwise elusive creatures. Much like the paparazzi with their telephoto lenses, these camera traps capture their subjects unbeknownst, before splashing their images across the tabloids (or just on a blog or two).

Didelphis marsupialis (aka a Virginia possum) caught on film at Playa Viva

Ehrlich and his helpers rolled their cameras for three nights, and after some adjustments were able to capture images and video of some of Playa Viva’s furry and feathered neighbours. Among them were a possum, a black vulture, a raccoon and a coati (or tejon) which is something like the raccoon’s Mexican cousin.

 

A black vulture (Coragyps atratus) poses for its closeup

Among Ehrlich’s most startling finds, however, was a white-tailed deer. Common in many parts of North America, these majestic quadrupeds once roamed all over the region, but due to hunting their numbers in Mexico have dwindled to near extinction. As such, Ehrlich was pleasantly surprised to “catch” one in his trap.

You can find a more detailed account of Ehrlich’s observations here, but you should probably just head down to Playa Viva and see for yourself.

Pizza…a la Playa Viva

January 31, 2015 by

When you can’t come to us, let our flavourful, homemade recipes help you to host a simple, naturally-based ‘pizza night’ in the sanctuary of your own home.

And in true Playa Viva style, we’ve made ingredients and instructions deliberately vague – leaving you free to follow your instincts, and put your own unique spin on things…

In or out of the kitchen, ‘como tu quieres’ (as you like it) is what really counts after all!

The Base (Masa)

Ingredients: 1.5kg flour, 2 eggs, raising agent, salt, muscovado sugar (pinch), water

Instructions: mix all ingredients together, and knead until doughy!

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The Sauce(s)

1. Tomato

Ingredients: tomatoes, oregano, salt

Instructions: blanch tomatoes until soft, then blend all ingredients together until saucy!

 

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2. Pesto

Ingredients: pecans, parmesan cheese, basil, garlic, olive oil

Instructions: blend all ingredients together until green and beautiful!

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3. The Toppings

Ingredients: mixed peppers, mushroom, fresh tomato, courgette, onion, pineapple…(pretty much whatever’s in season and locally grown)

Instructions: chop. dice, quarter…however you like your toppings to look!

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4. Prepping the Pizza Stage

Instructions: roll your pizza dough (shape, size and thickness up to you!), lay out your toppings and sauces, have your favourite cheese for sprinkling at the ready, and start stoking that fire…

 

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5. Get Cooking!

Instructions: while you may not have the luxury of a bespoke, wood-burning pizza oven at home, simply follow your gut and you can’t go wrong!

Tip: Don’t be shy when it comes to adding toppings, and remember to keep a close eye on your unique creations while they’re cooking…

And remember – if  cooking just ain’t your thing, or your pizzas simply won’t play ball – there’s always the real deal to escape to; Playa Viva’s very own ‘Pizza Night’ can be enjoyed up close and personal, every Sunday.

La Tortuga Viva: Predator-Proofing 101

January 27, 2015 by

 

Turtle Sanctuary

With an average of 6 turtle nests ransacked by predators each night, the more that our volunteer team can reach and relocate to the safe, secure haven of  La Tortuga Viva Turtle Sanctuary, the better!

Yet our rivals – mainly coatis and tejones – are a cunning bunch, and as they refuse to rest on their laurels, nor can we.

So as they continue to adapt and find new, innovative ways to defy our sanctuary security measures,  so must we strive to stay one step ahead. (And if there’s anything we relish, it’s a challenge!)

Cue our January renovation project:  Predator-Proofing Round Two.

Our mission? To rethink our security strategy, helping us to remain in the winning corner for the 6th year running…

Step 1: Strengthening the Structure 

While our unique position – just a stone’s-throw away from the seashore – is one of our favourite features, Playa Viva’s picturesque setting still brings with it a couple of drawbacks. Case in point: weathering.

Although we carefully select the most durable local materials available when building our 100% natural structures – from our eco-casitas and yoga studio, to our plant nursery and turtle sanctuary – we’re also well aware, that soon enough, these will all require an upgrade.

Thankfully, many hands do indeed make light work, and so our team of volunteers – permaculture staff, locals and international workers – made replacing the 100+ wooden posts that lined the sanctuary perimeter, and provided sturdy support for the mesh roofing, look a lot easier than 5 days of solid work under the burning sun would suggest!

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Step 2: Climb-Prevention Canopies

Fearing that turtle egg predators weren’t far off mastering their mesh-climbing skills, and would soon be scaling our wired walls with spiderman-like ease, it was time to put our heads together. Head of permaculture, Sapo – known for his awe-inspiring problem-solving powers – came up with a solution in no time, a mosquito-mesh canopy, along with a comprehensive construction plan detailing how exactly the design would work.

(That’s one of the beauties of being part of a living, breathing, continually-evolving project such as Playa Viva; who needs a blueprint when you’ve got your killer instincts to rely on, and sufficient head-space to hear them!)

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Thus, the team set about cutting the mosquito mesh to size; threading pliable wire through the top and bottom (the top, to attach it to the wire mesh; the bottom, to hold the mesh between posts in place); fitting wooden supports to the perimeter posts; and finally, attaching the mesh to the wooden supports. So coati be warned – you may get up, but you certainly won’t get over!

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Step 3: Blocking the Diggers

Having dealt with the ‘up and over’ style of break-in, our final step was to thwart the attempts of those who may call our bluff, and choose the ‘down and under’ approach…

For this solution, mesh came up trumps again – as did Sapo – who decided that a deeply-embedded, double-mesh-whammy would create the ultimate predator barrier.

And so, trenches were dug, wire mesh walls were pulled down and repositioned, and an extra mosquito mesh was laid on the inside – all ensuring that no creature, however great or small can pass through the net…quite literally!

 

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La Tortuga Viva (The Living Turtle) Background: Situated at the southeast corner of Playa Viva, the sanctuary is run by an all-volunteer staff, comprised of members of the local community. These are fisherman and farmers who recognized the damage being done to the local turtle population and decided to make a difference.

To make a donation click here.
Read the 2012-13 Annual Report click here.

Green Detox Juice: As You Like It

January 14, 2015 by
Olga washing freshly-picked veg from the garden.

Olga washing freshly-picked veg from the garden.

When I ask one of Playa Viva’s cooks, Olga. for the recipe for the delicious green juice we’re serving the guests at breakfast, she simply responds ‘como tu quieres’ (as you like it).

As my time here so far has proven, this phrase pretty much sums up the entire Playa Viva experience, in which each element is designed to fit snugly around your own particular set of conscious-living values.

From how you’d like your freshly-laid eggs in the morning, to daily activities (or daily inertia), how you interact with your surroundings at Playa Viva is dictated by you and you alone – a refreshing and relaxing change to a world in which we’re constantly bombarded by external pressures and generic messaging.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, my initial feeling is one of anxiety, when Olga asks me to prepare Green Juice the next morning, yet doesn’t follow her request by handing me a detailed recipe with the precise quantities needed, and the exact order of steps to follow.

(It seems that I, like so many of us, are a little out of practice when it comes to relying on my ‘inner guru.’)

And so armed with nothing more than a list of ingredients,   an encouraging smile from Olga – and of course, my neglected instinct – I set about making my very own version of Green Juice, just ‘as I like it.’

At first my mind gets in the way…self-doubt creeps in, I imagine a movie-worthy series of worst-possible-outcomes, …but then slowly – as the soothing rhythm of washing and chopping and blending takes over – I find myself lulled into a quiet sense of ease; my body intelligence seems to take the reins, and soon I’m throwing an extra stick of celery into the blender, and making confident declarations like ‘that’s enough lime’ without a moment’s hesitation.

In fact I didn’t even ask for a second opinion before pouring it out for our eagerly-awaiting guests!

And the verdict? A unanimous ‘Different but equally delicious’ – perhaps the very lesson that Playa Viva intends to honour and remind us of…

Try our Mexican Green Detox Juice recipe yourself at home and see what delicious creations you come up with! All you need is a blender, a willingness to freestyle, and the following ingredients: Celery, Cucumber, Spinach, Lime (juice), Cactus, Pineapple.

 

 

 

 

Playa Viva’s Horticultural Hike – A Superfood & Herbal Remedy Wonderland

January 9, 2015 by

One of the many wonderful things about Playa Viva is that you don’t have to venture far to explore the best that Mexico’s native wildlife has to offer. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your secluded, sustainably-built casita!

IMG_2083Since being here, I’ve spotted humpback whales and dolphins close to shore, three different types of pelican, geckos, hummingbirds, eagles, plus a whole host of flora and fauna species – from aloe vera to moringa to banana plants – all by simply peering out lazily from my balcony.

But for those willing to make just a teeny bit more effort, the Playa Viva Horticultural Hike – a loop of about 2 hours, which winds its way through the site’s 170-acre private reserve, passing lagoons, mangroves and plant nurseries along the way – begins right on your doorstep too.

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be guided around this loop by Alok, the current Playa Viva host/yoga teacher/miracle masseur. Not only does Alok benefit from having worked as a naturalist in California for 10 years, but his constant enthusiasm for learning more about unfamiliar ecosystems is infectious – a distinct bonus for me, who being a city-girl born and bred, still finds it hard to tell the difference between a weed and a vegetable!

Indeed, after only 5 minutes in the company of Alok, I was already nodding enthusiastically and trying desperately to retain even a fraction of the awesome wealth of knowledge he imparted.

Did you know for example that the leaves of the Palma Real are used to thatch the common ‘palapa’ roofing found in the region (including a third of the casitas at Playa Viva)? Or that the ancient Mayans believed that a great Ceiba (Kapok) tree stood at the centre of the earth – connecting the terrestrial world to the spirit-world above?

What was so impressive to me however, was just how naturally rich this area of Mexico is in herbal medicines and highly-nutritional plants.

Here are just a few of the fantastical facts that I managed to absorb about Playa Viva’s sustainable superfood pharmacy – ‘eat local’ has never seemed so enticing!

IMG_2085Moringa: The new plant ‘superfood.’ It contains four times the vitamin A found in carrots, six times the vitamin C of oranges, four times the calcium of cow’s milk, and three times the potassium of bananas.

Kapok (Ceiba): Bark decoctions from this tree are used as a diuretic, aphrodisiac and in the treatment of diabetes.

Tamarind: High in vitamin B, calcium, and used as a natural laxative.

Nopal (Prickly Pear): Rich in vitamins A, C, K, riboflavin, and B6, plus the minerals magnesium, potassium, iron and copper.

Copal: Used against influenza, rheumatism and fever.

Gourd Tree: Cure for sunburn, chapped skin and wounds.

Hibiscus: Used to treat abscess, furuncles, mosquito bites and burns. It also has digestive, anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. (Playa Viva happens to make a particularly delicious fresh hibiscus juice!)

Neem: Known as the ‘one tree pharmacy’ in Indian Ayuverdic medicine, it is used to treat a whole host of skin disorders and as an effective insect repellent.

Aloe Vera: Highly nutritional, containing over 200 active components – from vitamins and minerals, to amino acids and digestive aids. It also helps to boost the immune system and detoxify the body, inside and out.

IMG_2101Piedra de Medicina: Ok, not technically a plant, but this rock was used by ancient indigenous tribes to grind and mix plants for medicinal use. (Funny to think that we’re only just starting to rediscover the knowledge and practices that were common-place – and more-so, common-sense – thousands of years ago.)

Want to learn more? Set on 200 acres, Playa Viva is of course home to too many wonder-species to mention here. Why not visit us in person and see how many varieties you can identify!

Guest author: Liz Sutcliffe. Liz, a freelance editor from London, is currently volunteering at Playa Viva as part of our work exchange program

The Bridge to Discovery – Volunteering at Playa Viva

December 5, 2014 by

Recently, we were asked, “what is the reason and purpose of having volunteers at Playa Viva?” Never having formalized the rational for this program, it was surprising how easily the answer flowed. Volunteers are a bridge between guests and the local ecosystem, both the landscape of the property of Playa Viva and the people of the local community of Juluchuca. We see this as a long-term investment, just as our permaculture work is a long-term investment in the biodiversity and health of the ecosystem.

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The mission of volunteering, at a day-to-day level, is for volunteers to engage with the community and then engage guests in the activities they are undertaking (more about the mission on a long-term basis in future blog post). Since we were asked, it might also be worthwhile featuring in this blog the good work of some of these volunteers.

We will start with Lynda Curtis who is currently (Nov 2014) a volunteer at Playa Viva working on with the Permaculture team during the day and spending two days a week teaching English in the local community of Juluchuca.

She sent some photographs of her experience and answered a few “interview” questions:

PV: “How is the experience volunteering at Playa Viva different from volunteering at other locations?”

LC: “Playa Viva is a very unique experience compared to many of the other options through WWOOFing and Work Exchange. The surroundings are amazing and the Eco Hotel is a very special place to be a part of. There are not many places where you get to relax by the pool or sun lounges during your time off. For me the food is a big highlight. Nutrition is very important to me and the fact that most is grown organically on site is a huge plus. The normal experience might be some toast for breakfast. Big difference!  The workers are really great, very helpful and I felt part of the team straight away.”

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PV: “As a volunteer, do you really think you are making a difference in people’s lives and, if so, how?”

LC: “I have had a short time volunteering teaching English to the young children in town but I can already see the value it adds. It is certainly an advantage for them to have English skills, opening up job opportunities when they are older and having the confidence to communicate with visitors. There really is no option here for them to learn English otherwise so it is important to continue with this work. We are currently compiling a folder of different activities that can be used by volunteers in the future with the kids.”

PV: “Would you recommend Playa Viva to others as a volunteer experience and, if so, why?”

LC: “I would certainly recommend Playa Viva to others. The amazing thing is the freedom that is afforded to volunteer in the way you feel can add the most value. This way the community can take advantage of a great skill set and the volunteer feels fulfilled and that they are really contributing.”

PV: “What have been some of the pleasant surprises of your experience volunteering?”

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LC: “The kids are always a pleasure and provide great entertainment every lesson. What surprised me is, that for the most part, they are really well-behaved and want to learn. It’s very nice to have them calling my name as I walk through town. Also, it has opened up some of the other volunteers and workers to want to learn more when they realise I am teaching English. It’s great to share knowledge and skills.”

PV: “What have been the unpleasant surprises?”

LC: “For me there hasn’t been anything that surprises me. I have travelled in Latin America enough to know about the toilet paper basket, heat, mosquitos and every other creepy crawly. I love lizards, insects…any animal really. When a tarantula got inside I was excited to hold one much to the disgust of my friends! So what is unpleasant for me is probably quite different to others. Also for me the accommodation is fine – this might be different for others too as it is basic. If I was recommending to others to stay here I think they would need to understand it’s not like living in Australia.”

PV: “How would you describe the town and the people?”

Lynda Curtis 3LC: “The town is a very typical of Latin American. Very basic services, pretty hot, down and dirty but has a very unique flavor which I have grown to love.”

 
PV: “Can you tell me a story about working with the kids teaching English?”

LC: “Well, day-to-day, the kids are super cute of course. Yesterday I started teaching them Head Shoulders Knees and Toes. We first coloured some pictures showing the body parts. Then Franz played the song and I made a fool of myself doing the song and dance with them. They were super cute and really enjoyed it. I will do it again next week and maybe take a video, haha.”

PV: “Tell us about your overall experience at Playa Viva.”

LC:Playa Viva – such a special place that I have been so fortunate to be able to experience. Every morning I get to watch the sunrise over the palm trees while sipping on a coffee and easing into the day. On very special mornings this includes spotting a mama turtle making her way back into the ocean after nesting. Just amazing.

Working in the garden has been a great opportunity to connect with nature and every day I discover new plants and creatures I never knew existed.Picture9

While the environment is truly spectacular, the staff, volunteers and local people really make the experience something special. Learning about Mexican culture, getting involved with local activities and teaching English to the children has really made me feel a part of the community.

I am having such a wonderful life experience and I hope that many more people get to experience what I have been so fortunate to encounter.”


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