Saturday, February 21, 2015


February 13, 2015

Mexican Train Dominoes at the Marina
Knowing that my precious days alone to do whatever I liked (reading, drawing, playing the guitar, writing, studying languages, etc.) were almost at an end, I began hoarding my time.  No longer did I seek to fill my time with interesting activities.  La Cruz was a dilettante’s paradise and the variety of choices could get overwhelming.  I spent all day at home on Friday, only venturing out at 17:00 for the Mexican Train happy hour at the marina, which I enjoyed too much to forego.  We had a very large group and needed to form three tables.  I played with Eric and Vandy from my trip to the Alta Vista petroglyphs, Mike and Katrina, and a family of three.   The family had brought a set of dominoes with numbers instead of dots and everyone was appreciative of those.

Jan and Ramona were playing at another table and, when it finally got too dark to play, they decided to join Betty and me for dinner at the Ballena Blanca.  We were all hoping to listen to the band, but it started raining on the way over there and, being that the restaurant has only tarps for shade and no roof, the band couldn’t play.  We managed to meet Betty and eat a delicious dinner, but it eventually began to rain quite hard and we had to leave before we drowned.  Since Betty was staying at the Agave Azul, a guest house nearby, I went home with her and visited until the rain abated enough for me to dash up the hill.

February 14, 2015

Valentine’s Day was completely free and I didn’t mind spending it alone one bit.  I spent it being as productive as possible and completed my blog post for the week.  It was supposed to have rained all day, but the storm stayed south of us.  I stayed in, anyway, and enjoyed myself immensely.

Late in the evening, someone started playing very loud mariachi music.  The sound of the tuba rattled my bones.  This went on until midnight when they must have had some guest artists playing because they rapidly cycled through country, electronica, hip hop and even zydeco music before returning to mariachi music again.  They kept me awake until 2:00 when I was finally tired enough to sleep even though they were still going strong.

February 15, 2015

La Cruz from Above
Sunday morning, I was relieved to awake to the relative silence of roosters and traffic noise.  The tuba was silenced.  I had left my sweater at Betty’s place, so agreed to meet her at the farmers’ market on Sunday morning.  We met about 10:30 and chatted and listened to the band for an hour or so before buying some peanut butter and strawberries and then taking a stroll along the marina and through the vendors in the plaza.  I usually went to the Mega on Sundays, but decided to just grab the essentials (eggs, bananas, beverages) from a tienda in town and pick up the few items I needed from the big store on the way to pick Pat up from the airport on Tuesday.  My time was growing short and I didn’t need to buy a lot of food.  I spent another wonderful afternoon at home and ate leftovers for dinner.

February 16, 2015

My only real complaint about living in La Cruz was that I didn’t sleep well.  Loud music and/or the neighbors tended to keep me awake at night and the mattress was so hard that, even with the memory foam I had brought, my hip bothered me when I lay down.  Since I tended to be a night owl anyway, it didn’t take much to make me stay up late.  The only problem with staying up late, since I really didn’t have to get up early, was that I needed to exercise in the morning before the sun came up and it got too warm.  Lack of sleep was cutting into my running and I wanted to keep up my endurance because I had agreed to train for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon on my return to California.  I got up early on Monday morning and ran around the marina and back up the hill.  It was remarkable how much I could sweat in 3.25 miles, even before dawn, in La Cruz’s humidity.  I had to down a Gatorade immediately on my return to stave off intense cramps in my calves.

La Patrona
I spent the morning on my usual pursuits and then met Ramona to take her to see my hairdresser.  Ramona needed a haircut and wanted to start growing a little braid like mine, so she wanted me to come along to provide an example.  We went to see Gabriela at the salon on Huachinango and she did a nice job of cutting Ramona’s hair, leaving her with a cute little pigtail in back.  From there, we walked up to the stationery store on Coral so that Ramona could buy some rubber bands for her braid and then we parted ways and I returned home to spend my last solitary afternoon writing and playing the guitar.

I had plans to meet Betty for dinner and the show at La Cava.  When I got there, I discovered we had grown to a group of ten.  I already knew Evan and Mary Lou, but I enjoyed talking to some other sailors down at our end of the table.  Once again, La Patrona was playing typical music from Jalisco.  The singer had a wonderful voice and a beautiful costume.  She sang songs about the wonders of Guadalajara and joked about how superior it was to Mexico City.  After dinner, Betty, Evan, Mary Lou and I walked up to Philo’s, having heard there was a blues jam happening.  When we got there, the music was a little too country for our tastes.  We decided to call it an evening.

February 17, 2015

Tuesday was my last morning alone, so I did 110 squats and a bunch of push-ups and sit-ups and then spent the morning drinking coffee and studying languages.  I practiced the guitar for a while in the early afternoon and then set off to meet my friend, Pat, at the airport.  Her plane arrived on time.  We took the bus back to La Cruz.  Pat had a heavy suitcase, so we had a time hauling it up the 134 stairs to my apartment.

I wanted to take Pat to La Glorieta de Enrique for a welcome margarita and coconut shrimp, but they were closed on Tuesdays.  We ended up going to the Ballena Blanca for shrimp burritos and then took a walk around the marina where I ran into almost everyone I knew.  By the time we finished our walk and returned home, we were ready to hit the hay.

February 18, 2015

We drank coffee and listened to the net.  Then I ran down to pick up my laundry and buy a few things for breakfast while Pat got ready.  I told Sonja, my friend at the laundry, that we were going to Guadalajara for the weekend.  She was from Guadalajara and gave me some tips on what to see and where to shop. 

The Beach at Bucerias
We had smoothies and hard boiled eggs for breakfast and then set off for the beach in Bucerias.  We took a collectivo over there and then walked down through the center of town to the beach.  Pat enjoyed seeing the square and we started to walk through the market stalls but were quickly discouraged by the vendors’ aggressive sales tactics.  We beat a hasty retreat through a crowd of tourists and walked down to the beach.  We strolled along the sand for a while and then stopped at a restaurant with chaise lounges under umbrellas where we parked for the morning.  We ordered soft drinks and lounged in the shade.  We took turns swimming in the ocean.  Pat went first.  As she waded into the waves, she stepped off a sudden drop and tumbled over backwards.  Our neighbors later informed us that it was better to walk a bit further to the right before entering the water.  The bottom there undulated, but didn’t have any sudden drop offs.  I was able to wade in far enough to start swimming without any major mishaps.  We lounged there until noon or so and then decided to head the other direction to eat lunch at a palapa restaurant on the sand.

We ate lunch at Mariscos El Gordo or Fat Boy Seafood.  When we had arrived at the beach, we had been greeted by a fellow who gave us a coupon and told us that the special was lunch and a margarita for 110 pesos.  That sounded like a good deal, so we went back there.  When we arrived, we discovered that the coupon was actually for five beers for 110 pesos and the waiter denied that there had ever been any such deal as lunch and a margarita for 110 pesos.  We had both clearly heard the guy.  His tactics had worked, however, because we were there.  It was a nice place with a gorgeous view, so we stayed anyway.  We ordered mahi mahi filets and pina coladas and the fish was well prepared.  We sat and enjoyed the view until it was time for us to head home and clean up for the evening’s activities.

We crossed the highway and grabbed another van back to La Cruz.  We needed to wash off the sand and get dressed in time for the Mexican Train happy hour at the Gecko Rojo, which started at 17:00.  Pat had never played Mexican Train before, but she won the first game.  We had a rather small and somewhat subdued group, so it was a good opportunity for Pat to learn how to play.  We had a drink and played until about 18:50.  Then we walked around the corner to Philo’s to see Luna Rumba.
Luna Rumba at Philo's
I could have listened to Luna Rumba every night, but I was pleasantly surprised when they played a very different set from the last time I had seen them.  They played some traditional Mexican songs with a twist and some new material.  Geo, the violinist, even played a string quartet all by himself using looping technology.  It started sounding familiar after he added the second part, but I didn’t place it until he finally added the melody at the end.  He was playing Eleanor Rigby!  I got a good laugh out of that because my cousin Tiffany and I were amazed at how often we heard Beatles songs in Mexico.  It seemed we couldn’t go a day without hearing one.

February 19, 2015

Church in Mascota
April picked us up at the bottom of the hill to leave for our trip to Guachimontones.  We continued on to PV Sailing to collect the other members of our group.  We had quite a crowd because there were not only the eight of us in the van, but also a family of five from New Zealand.  Most of the others in the van were already friends.  Even the one couple I thought I didn’t know turned out to have spent Christmas with Scott and me in Chiapas.

Plaza in Mascota

It was a long drive to Guachimontones and we were in somewhat of a hurry because we had to get to the pyramids in time to see them before they closed at 17:00.  We stopped for breakfast in Mascota and ordered sandwiches there to take with us for lunch.  We completely overwhelmed the café and ended up spending much more time there than we had planned.  As a result of that, we ended up eating our lunch in the parking lot of an Oxxo where we stopped to use the restroom.  Still, we made it to Teuchitlan in plenty of time.

Museum at Guachimontones
Betty and Kat with Their Tattoos
Our guide was due to meet us at 16:00 and we were early, so we visited the museum at the archaeological site of Guachimontones first.  The museum was brand new and had a lot of very interesting interactive displays.  One of the docents at the museum painted temporary designs on Katrin and Betty’s forearms.  After we walked through the museum, our guide met us and took us on a tour of the site.  No one knows what the people who built the structures there were called, since they left no written records.  Today, the civilization is called the Teuchitlan Tradition.  Their architecture was marked by the construction of round “pyramids” of concentric circles, surrounded by a ring of smaller temples.  A tall pole rose from the center of the main “pyramid” and men performed the “flying” ritual while suspended from that pole.  The flying ritual is performed to this day and I had seen it the previous year at Playa Linda near Ixtapa.
Unexcavated Pyramid

The site was also equipped with several ball courts, some of which were only for practice.  This society apparently used the ball game to settle disputes rather than to determine who got sacrificed.  However, since the hard rubber ball weighed between three and six kilograms and the game was, like soccer, played without hands and lasted from sunup to sundown, injuries were often fatal.  Most of the male skeletons found at the site had hip or leg fractures.  Archaeologists had reconstructed one of the pyramids and surrounding temple platforms, but most of them remained untouched and looked like unnatural little hills.  We climbed up the largest of these, which was a serene spot covered with trees and offered a fabulous view of the reconstructed area.  Our guide was interesting and told us stories of weird occurrences around the site that had led the employees who worked there to believe it was haunted.

Round "Pyramid"
We stayed until the site closed and then piled back in the van and drove down to a restaurant called Soky next to the lake where we had dinner.  The restaurant was a beautiful, huge, open structure inches from the water.  A natural spring flowed into a lovely swimming pool there.  The lake was choked with water hyacinth, which made it look more like a field than a lake, although they were rumored to blow from side to side as the wind shifted.  It was still a very pretty view and we saw egrets and white pelicans.  The service was appalling and the food fairly mediocre unless you ordered something pulled from the lake.  The frog legs and trout were good, although everyone else had finished eating by the time they finally brought my trout.  Still, we had a nice time eating dinner with the group.

Pool at Soky
After dinner, we repaired to the Hotel Teuchitlan, which turned out to be a pleasant surprise.  It was a very nice, modern hotel and, aside from the usual rock hard mattresses, quite comfortable.  We rested for half an hour and then some of us went for a walk down to the plaza.  Teuchitlan is pretty dead after dark, but we found an open ice cream shop where we bought popsicles.  We took our goodies into the plaza and sat all in a row on a long white iron bench.  It was a pleasant evening and we were all happy to be with good company in small town Mexico.

Hotel Teuchitlan

Saturday, February 14, 2015


February 6, 2015

When I woke up in the morning, my dog friend was nowhere to be found.  When Tiffany stirred, she told me that the dog had ended up sleeping in her bed and she had let her out.  Once again hoping that she had gone away, I opened my front door only to be greeted by our new friend.  After the net, I called my friend, April, on the radio.  She had seen the picture of the dog on my Facebook page and recognized her.  She told me that she usually hung around by the taxi stand.  Since she seemed well fed, I figured that she had an owner.  After breakfast, I walked her down the hill and across the highway.  It took me several tries to escape her, but she eventually went off about her normal doggy business and I was able to sneak away without being followed.

My cousin, Tiffany, wasn’t feeling well, so we spent the majority of the day hanging around the apartment while she regaled me with tales from her job as an investigator in child protective services.  At 17:00, I went down to the marina to play dominoes.  While we were playing, a condominium in one of the Alamar towers caught on fire and smoke was billowing out of the building and flames were shooting upward.  We all watched, horrified and convinced that the whole building was going to go up.  All of us knew people who lived there and we were very worried.  In the end, it was only one unit that burned, although there had to have been a lot of smoke damage, since we all tended to leave every window open.  It appeared to have been an electrical fire, so the power was turned off throughout the entire building.  The developer paid to send all the residents to a hotel until the power could be evaluated and restored.  After dominoes, I came home and made pork chops and bacon slaw for dinner.

February 7, 2015

Tiffany felt better on Saturday morning, so we spent a leisurely morning at home and then set out for the surf town of Sayulita.  It was a lovely day, sunny but not too hot.  We took a collective to the prep school next to the highway and then walked under the overpass and over the pedestrian walkway to the other side of the highway where we caught a bus to Sayulita.  The total fare for both buses was 21 pesos (<$1.50.)  It was only 14 kilometers from La Cruz to Sayulita, so it wasn’t a long bus ride, but Tiffany enjoyed seeing the jungle greenery which reminded her of Oregon after living in Oklahoma for the past few years.
The Beach at Sayulita

We got off the bus at the bus terminal in Sayulita and then walked into the town, past the main square and down to the beach.  Sayulita probably wasn’t any bigger than La Cruz, but it had a lot more touristy businesses.  There were shops selling surf wear and handicrafts and lots of bars and restaurants.  The beach was lined with restaurants, each of which had tables under umbrellas on the beach as well as a covered area.  We elected the first major restaurant that we encountered and selected a spot under the roof, but next to the beach where we could observe the action.  We ordered drinks to start and then some shrimp quesadillas for lunch.  The margaritas were humongous.  It took a couple of hours for Tiffany to get through her second one.  I had started with beer but, seeing that it was going to take a while for Tiffany to finish her drink, I ordered a strawberry daiquiri.  When it arrived, I was shocked to see that it was every bit as large as Tiffany’s margarita.  It took us until 4:30 in the afternoon to get through our drinks.

Sayulita was a very touristy place and seemed even more so after living in La Cruz where almost no one ever tried to sell me anything.  Every few minutes another vendor came by hawking jewelry, pottery, and clothing.  Tiffany eventually bought a new hat.  When we finally left the restaurant, we looked for a bank.  Sayulita had numerous private ATMs, but no actual banks.  We weren’t desperate, so decided to take the bus back into Bucerias to visit a bank there before returning to La Cruz.  I knew a couple of people who had cards compromised after using private ATMs and didn’t want to take a chance.

By the time we got home, it was almost dinner time.  We stopped at the market to buy eggs, water and juice and Tiffany bought a bottle of wine and some laundry detergent.  Once we got home, she relaxed while I made us beef and peppers in a guajillo chile sauce over cauliflower rice and salad.  We drank the wine with dinner and spent a quiet evening.

February 8, 2015
Three Foot Iguana

I had wanted to go to a pool party at Los Arroyos Verdes since the previous year, but had never gotten around to it.    My friends, Jan and Ramona, also wanted to go so, after a quick stop to look at the giant tree dwelling iguanas near the park, Tiffany and I met them at the entrance to the marina where Los Arroyos Verdes had sent a van to collect us.  

Bar Pavilion at Los Arroyos Verdes
Los Arroyos Verdes is a sort of hotel/botanical garden/spa/sculpture garden inland a few kilometers from Bucerias.  The owner, Lupe, is a very creative woman and had lovingly decorated the property with all sorts of repurposed objects and found art.  Even the restrooms were beautiful.  For 300 pesos, one could purchase a day pass which allowed one access to the gorgeous pool area, restaurant and bar.  That 300 pesos could be used towards purchases in the bar and restaurant where the prices were competitive with local restaurants.  On Sundays, they had pool parties with live music in the afternoon.  The parties were popular and the pool area was lively with people swimming, relaxing in the shade, and listening to the music.

Pool at Los Arroyos Verdes
We got there just before noon and spent the day reading, using the free wifi, and soaking up the ambiance.  We had lunch in the restaurant and sipped sangria by the pool while listening to the band Funkswagen.  Funkswagen played sets that were a little mellower than usual, but they still had us dancing by later in the afternoon.  Tiffany and I got a good laugh at how an hour cannot go by in Mexico without hearing a Beatles song.  We did, however, get through an entire afternoon without hearing Honky Tonk Woman, which seems to be the most popular song in La Cruz.  We stayed until the party ended and then they gave us a ride back to La Cruz.

To save ourselves a trip up the stairs, Tiffany and I decided to eat and early dinner at El Rey Bombon before heading home.  We had ceviche and octopus tostadas and shrimp tacos, all of which were delicious, reasonable and quite filling.  Then we climbed up the steps one last time and spent Tiffany’s last evening lounging about, reading and using the internet.

February 9, 2015

Tiffany’s flight left at 15:30, so she spent the morning packing and relaxing while I studied languages.  Tiffany made bacon one last time, which had become quite a habit while she was visiting.  About 12:30, we left and took a collective to the airport.  The driver tried to charge me an extra 10 pesos per person and still overcharged me ten pesos, even after I called him on it.  I wasn’t, however, sure if he was trying to rip me off or just really bad at math.  For ten pesos, it didn’t seem worth going through another round of argument.  We got Tiffany and her luggage checked in and then stopped for some lunch at an airport café.  I couldn’t get through security, so I said goodbye to Tiffany and then hopped on a bus back north.

One my way home, I stopped at Chedraui in Nuevo Vallarta.  Chedraui is my favorite market in Mexico, but it is also the furthest from La Cruz and I had not been there since the previous year.  Despite being a Mexican company, they stock a nice variety of foreign products and their tortilleria makes the best chips.  I bought lots of beverages and produce and then took another collectivo back to La Cruz, where a spent a quiet evening enjoying my solitude.  I could see Mr. Chedraui's large yacht from my window.

February 10, 2015

Tuesday morning, I heard on the net that the benefit for the free spay and neuter clinic that was happening that evening was short of volunteers because seven people had called in sick.  Since the organizer was a friend of mine, I volunteered to sell drink tickets.  That gave me most of the day free.  Having had company for the past ten days, I was a little behind on my guitar lessons and language study.  I spent the bulk of the day reviewing what I had learned on the guitar and making notes so that I could remember what to play without referring to the internet.  It was a very relaxing day.

It was becoming increasingly clear that my time in La Cruz was very limited.  With another guest arriving the 17th and a trip planned to Guachimontones and Guadalajara for five days, I would soon run out of free days to spend as I wished.  I went over and over in my head how I could possibly extend my stay, but couldn’t avoid my responsibilities to family and property any longer.  I would have to leave La Cruz at the end of February as planned, even though it would break my heart.  My only consolation was that I would eventually be able to return.  The experiment of living in La Cruz for a season to see if I liked it as much as I thought I did had succeeded.  In fact, I liked it even better.

By 17:00, it was time to walk over to Las Palapas Grill on the beach, where the Puppy Love benefit was being held.  The only way knew how to get there was to walk along the beach from the marina, so I looked at a map and tried to divine a more direct route from my apartment.  I still ended up walking the last part of the way along the beach, but at least I found it with no trouble.  Things were a bit chaotic when I got there because people were showing up and the organizer still had not arrived.  I immediately sat down at the drink ticket table and was soon swamped with purchasers.  The original plan had been for volunteers to work in shifts so that we could still enjoy the party, but we were so short-handed that I ended up selling tickets from 17:30 to 21:00 when the party officially ended.  I didn’t get to see the dog wedding or participate in the auction and could barely hear the band, but I sold a lot of drink tickets,  greeted many friends, and got to know Landon from Inside La Cruz who was helping me and turned out to be my neighbor.

After the party ended, a few of us hung around to launch sky lanterns.  I had been fascinated by them since New Year’s of 2014 when I watched thousands of them float skyward in Ixtapa.  A sky lantern is a sort of miniature hot air balloon made of silk with a chunk of firestarter suspended at the bottom.  One lights the waxy material of the firestarter and then holds the lantern until the air inside becomes hot enough to lift it.  This is somewhat tricky because one has to do this without burning oneself or catching the lantern on fire.  Often, they are released too soon and crash before they really take off.  We did manage to launch a few of them, although the heart shaped ones we were using were a bit large and didn’t work as well as the more balloon shaped ones.

What had looked like streets on my map had turned out to be more like trails.  While I had arrived without incident, I didn’t want to go back that way in the dark.  I still had to pick my way along the edge of the beach to the first street, but then I chose a better lighted route which led me back through the center of La Cruz instead of skirting along the edge.

February 11, 2015

Fruits, Veggies and Salt in San Pancho
Wednesday, I went on another excursion with my favorite tour guide, April, to the Alta Vista Petroglyphs at Santuario del Rey.  We left La Cruz at 9:00 and drove north.  After a half an hour or so, we stopped at a fruit stand in San Francisco (usually known as San Pancho.)  They sold all kinds of exotic fruits, such as guayabana and yaka, which can grow as large as 80 pounds per fruit.  We sampled some yaka and browsed through the large selection of Mexican delicacies.  I bought a bag of tasty, but curiously yellow macaroons.  Finally, we all piled back in the van and drove for another hour or so through las Penitas and up the road to Alta Vista. 
Candies for Sale in San Pancho

The last part of the way was on a dirt road. Eventually, the dirt road degenerated to the point that we needed to park the van and continue the last couple of miles on foot.  It was an easy hike along a stream.  We saw lots of birds and a gargantuan spider that was nearly as big as my hand, although he was mostly legs.  The petroglyphs were carved into the rocks at Santuario del Rey (Sanctuary of the King), a sort of natural amphitheater which is still considered a holy place by the Huichol Indians.  The petroglyphs were not especially old.  They were believed to have been carved between 1000 and 1500 A.D.  No one knows exactly what they were supposed to represent, but it is likely that they were considered a type of communication with the gods.  Some seemed to depict shamans and others aspects of nature.  There were a lot of spirals and one that resembled a crocodile.
Petroglyph at Santuario del Rey

The petroglyphs were interesting, but I found the setting more spectacular than its decorations.  A stream ran between walls of fractured granite and poured over steps to form pools and a wide open area at the bottom.  The fractured stone made the walls look almost manmade, as if the stream had stripped away the soil covering an ancient temple.  The site had a mystical air about it and was very restful.  It was no wonder that it was considered a holy place and we saw a number of offerings scattered across the stones.  We stopped there to rest and eat a snack.  My camera suddenly malfunctioned and began taking overexposed, striated and negative images.  I had to switch to my cell phone camera.  Maybe there was some strange juju there because it started working again after we left.
Pool at Santuario del Rey

Fractured Stone
Once we left Alta Vista, we continued on to the town of Las Varas where we visited the Jamurca Hot Springs.  The hot water was trapped in brick enclosures where it welled out of the earth and then piped into concrete lined pools of differing temperatures.  We spent most of our time in a large pool the temperature of bath water, although we did visit a small, hot tub like pool, as well.  We ate lunch, bathed and relaxed.  The water left our skins feeling soft and smooth.  We were nice and relaxed for the drive home.

Pool at Jamurca Hot Springs
Hot Pool at Jamurca Hot Springs
As another couple on the trip was staying with friends who lived on my street, I got dropped off close to home.  Betty, another single woman sailor spending the winter in La Cruz, had never been to our part of town before and was curious, so I invited her up for a drink.  She was enchanted with the view and we spent a couple of hours chatting and drinking tequila.  She left when it started getting dark and I ate leftovers and spent a quiet evening reflecting that my wonderful free days were almost at an end.  I loved spending time with friends, but the best part of my time in La Cruz had been having time to devote to things like studying languages and playing the guitar, which I never seemed to be able to fit into my life at home.

February 12, 2015

I made the most of the morning and early afternoon on Thursday, reviewing what I had learned on the guitar and spending a lot of time on languages, although I did pop down after the net to buy tickets for the next Luna Rumba show and pick up my laundry.  At 15:00, I went to the meeting of Women Who Sail at El Asadero, a restaurant I had wanted to try.  The meeting was kind of a disaster.  The acoustics were horrible, there was no microphone, and we couldn’t hear the speakers.  There weren’t enough waiters and many of us never got a drink or a chance to order food.  It was so noisy that I could barely converse with the women at my table.  Betty and I ducked out early to go to the Octopus’ Garden to teach English.

The Octopus’ Garden offers free English lessons to the community on Thursday afternoons at 17:00.  It was pretty chaotic with several different levels being taught simultaneously at neighboring tables in one courtyard.  I had offered to help, but wasn’t expecting to be thrust into teaching five first and second graders with no organized curriculum or instruction.  We went over colors, days of the week, months and members of the family.  They were adorable and a couple of the girls were very eager to learn, although the boys were shy and fidgety.  After about a half an hour, they wanted to play a game and I had nothing prepared.  The best I could do was to play hangman with them, which worked until they got wind that someone was passing out Valentine’s candy and declared the lesson over.  I was somewhat relieved that I would be busy my last two Thursdays in La Cruz, but hoped that I could devote time to teaching English in La Cruz at a later date after I had some instruction in teaching English.

On my way home, I dropped by Philo’s to make dinner reservations for the night of the Luna Rumba show.  The maître d' wasn’t pleased that Philo had said I could do so because they were really already full.  I was pretty sure the only reason I managed to make a reservation was that, unbeknownst to them, Jan and Ramona had already made one and I was only adding two more people to that reservation.  I figured we’d be stuffed somewhere, but hoped for the best.  I dropped by the evening produce market to buy bananas, peppers and a mango and then returned home to revel in my solitude.

Saturday, February 7, 2015


January 30, 2015

Knowing that the bus from Barra de Navidad to Puerto Vallarta didn’t leave until 10:40, I had time to go for a run over the steep hill above the marina and through the golf course.  I had always wondered why I never saw a soul on the golf course.  Someone told me that the hotel guests don’t get up early enough to play golf in the morning, so it is busy in the late afternoon instead.  After my run, I ate breakfast and packed my duffle bag, even managing to cram my memory foam pad inside.  Then we took the water taxi across the channel to the town and lugged my belongings clear across Barra to the bus depot.  We were early and the bus was late, so we sat there for the better part of two hours before my bus finally arrived and I said goodbye to Brad.

The bus from Barra was not a first class bus, but it was comfortable enough.  We didn’t actually leave Barra until 11:10.  The route wound inland through non-descript low hills, fields of corn, and orchards of mango trees.  We stopped at numerous seemingly nameless villages and roadside bus shelters.  The bus may not have served well known cities, but it was crowded with passengers traveling from town to town and carrying all kinds of goods.  One man carried two large bundles of brightly colored hammocks.  After about four hours, we came to the intersection of the new road to Yelapa.  The road was surfaced with pavers and stretched off towards the mountains.  We headed further inland before climbing over the mountains and finally joining the coast at Boca de Tomatlan.  It took us quite a while to drive across Puerto Vallarta during rush hour.  By the time we reached the bus terminal, it was 17:30.

Since I wasn’t sure exactly where I was and had a lot of heavy baggage, I elected to take a taxi back to La Cruz, which also allowed me to avoid schlepping my bags up the 134 stairs to my apartment.  I had a nice young taxi driver and he only charged me 230 pesos (about $17) for the ride.  I was tired and didn’t want to move from my apartment that evening, so peeled open an envelope of chilorio (spicy shredded pork) and ate that with tostadas (crispy fried corn tortillas) for dinner.

January 31, 2015

I spent a very pleasant last morning by myself and then hopped on a bus about 13:30 to go meet my cousin, Tiffany, at the airport.  Her plane was slightly delayed so, despite having checked with her to be sure she was actually on the plane and checked with the airport to determine the projected time of landing, I still had to wait for about 45 minutes before Tiffany managed to get her passport stamped and luggage recovered.  We walked across the pedestrian walkway and took a bus completely devoid of shock absorbers back to La Cruz where I introduced Tiffany to my 134 stairs.
The Gathering Clouds Were Spectacular
After getting Tiffany settled in her room, we headed for town.  Our first stop was La Glorieta de Enrique where we celebrated her arrival with margaritas and coconut shrimp.  Then we continued on to the Gecko Rojo for another round of margaritas.  We hung out there until the band started to get noisy.  Then we returned to my place and called it an early evening.

February 1, 2015

Tiffany’s visit gave me an excuse to go to the Gecko Rojo for eggs Benedict and mimosas on Sunday morning.  They had a local fellow singing and playing mellow keyboard who had a lively sense of humor and did numbers such as I Left My Wife in San Francisco.  The eggs were tasty, included a mimosa in the price, and were more reasonable than I expected.  We relaxed there, using the internet (mine wasn’t functioning that morning) for some time and then wandered over to check out the farmers’ market.  Neither of us were big shoppers and the food offerings were weak on Paleo choices, but I did buy some strawberries.  Finally, we stopped at Charlie’s Place to scope out the options for Superbowl parties later and then caught a bus to Mega to get cash for Tiffany and buy groceries.

Rain in Bucerias
While we were in the Mega, it started to pour.  We thought it might pass, so bought cups of coffee and sat in the café, hoping vainly that it would clear.  When it became apparent that we could be stuck there all day, we packed up our groceries and made a run for the bus shelter.  Fortunately, the bus had just arrived so we were able to dash right inside.  I had to stand at first, but we eventually got seats and could watch the rivers of water running down all the side streets.  I was a bit concerned about crossing the arroyo where the water flows across the road, but the bus plowed right through with no trouble.  The rain was lighter when we stepped off the bus in La Cruz, so we managed to get up the hill without getting drenched to the skin.

The idea of going out in the rain to watch the Superbowl didn’t appeal to either of us, so we watched it in Spanish on my television.  (The first time I had watched it since I arrived.)  The trouble with watching the Superbowl in Mexico is that you don’t get to see the wonderful commercials broadcast in the United States.  Since I couldn’t have cared less about the game, I studied languages with my headphones on and just checked on the score now and then.  Later on, I cooked chicken breasts and curried cauliflower and made us a salad.  We enjoyed our dinner and a bottle of wine and then Tiffany hit the hay early while I stayed up, playing the guitar.

February 2, 2015

Rainy Morning in La Cruz
One o’clock in the morning saw both of us standing at the windows, staring in awe at the squall raging outside.  I had to close the windows because the rain was blowing sideways.  Palm trees were thrashing and Tiffany was wondering whether she hadn’t just arrived in the path of a hurricane.  We managed to go back to sleep, but I was awake again by 6:00 because the sound of the rain pouring down on the concrete outside my window was deafening.

We were supposed to have gone out on the Chica Locca for a whale watching booze cruise that day, but it was clear that it was going to be cancelled.  We stayed in a lounged around all day.  About 17:00, I received a Facebook message from my friend, Charlotte from Pegasus, telling me to keep an eye out for her friends, Evan and MaryLou on Windward Star.  She must have messaged us both at the same time because minutes later I heard Evan on the radio, asking the fleet if anyone knew Rene from Fool’s Castle.  I answered his hail and we agreed to meet that evening.
There was a break in the weather when we headed down the hill to meet Even and MaryLou at Philo’s.  We had a drink there and, when the band started up, we relocated to La Cava de Martinez where they had Monday fiesta night with a good mariachi band.  The service was rather terrible because they were packed and seemed to have only one waiter, but the food was delicious as always.  We had fun chatting and listening to the music.  The band had a talented (unlike most in La Cruz) female singer wearing a cute matador costume.  We stayed out until after 22:00 and, unfortunately, the rain resumed.  Everyplace else on the main drag was shuttered by the time we headed home, dashing from overhang to overhang, through the rain.

February 3, 2015

Tiffany had said that she wanted to do nothing but eat, sleep and drink on her vacation and that is pretty much all we did on Tuesday.  It rained most of the day, so we stayed in and did a lot of reading.  I cooked dinner and we drank a bottle of red wine.  It was very relaxing.

February 4, 2015

The Chica Locca
The weather finally cleared on Wednesday and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  It was still a little cooler than normal, but was a lovely day to go whale watching on the Chica Locca.  We arrived at the boat about 9:30 and left the marina by 10:00.  They immediately served us coffee and juice.  I resisted at first, but caved in when they offered me coffee with Bailey’s.  Once we were underway, they served us fruit and pastries.  We motored out into the bay and headed towards the Marietas Islands, slowing down now and then to watch whales.  

Humpback Whale
Humpback whales come to Banderas Bay to mate and then return to give birth.  We saw many of them.  Never before had I been able to capture any with my camera, but they were so numerous that I managed to get a few decent shots.  Of course it helped that I wasn’t also trying to sail the boat and could concentrate on following their movements with my lens.

Whale Tail
 We arrived at the islands before noon and tied up to a mooring ball.  They turned on the water slide and most of us splashed into the water and swam or paddled about in kayaks or on stand up paddle boards.  The water was clear and warmer than the air.  After an hour or so, they passed out snorkeling gear and a large
group of us swam from the boat, through a cave to a beach on the bottom of a sink hole in the center of the island.  It was warm and sheltered in there and the sight of the sink hole rimmed with bromeliads was otherworldly.  We explored some of the side caves, splashing through the water and climbing over rocks.  I continued on to the coral reef with the boat’s naturalist and saw a few colorful tropical fish before some people began to get cold and wanted to return to the boat.  It was a long swim and, though I had been the first one to the beach, I was ready to relax in the sun and eat lunch by the time we got back.

One of the Marietas Islands
Since Tiffany and I both try to eat Paleo, I had ordered gluten free meals, thinking they were more likely to conform to our diet than any other option.  That turned out to be a good decision because the standard lunch was a very bready chicken sandwich, but we got a lovely salad with slices of chicken breast rolled around peppers and cucumber.  There was an open bar, so we drank margaritas and relaxed.  Once lunch was over, we headed for home, once again stopping to watch whales and dolphins.  They cranked up the music and people started to dance.  There was a group of nurses who must have been taking pole dancing classes because they were quite adept at dancing using the poles supporting the roof of the boat, much to the delight of the all male crew.  We dallied along the shore between Punta de Mita and La Cruz and didn’t return to the marina until nearly 18:00.  It was a wonderful day.
Rocks Off La Cruz

We were exhausted by the time we got home and napped for a little while before heading out for dinner.  I had intended to go to a seafood restaurant next to the highway, but it was closed when we finally got there, so we continued on to Oso’s Oyster Bar and ate shrimp enchiladas and listened to a very talented young Mexican couple playing guitars and singing what were probably original songs.

February 5, 2015

We were a little worse for wear after the previous day of sun and alcohol, so decided to spend another day lounging around the house.  My friends, Jan and Ramona, had arrived in La Cruise with their boat, Jatimo.  They hailed me after the morning net.  At midday I decided I needed to get a little exercise, so I walked down to the marina to see them on my way to the grocery store to stock up on beverages and bacon.  They wanted to come up to see my place, so we agreed that they would come over for drinks when they had finished their boat chores.  I did my shopping and bought us a rotisserie chicken for lunch.

Jan and Ramona Enjoying My View
Tiffany and I spent a quiet afternoon and then Jan and Ramona arrived for happy hour.  We visited for a while and then all went out for fish tacos at the Ballena Blanca.

On our way home, Tiffany became worried about a dog that was standing in the highway and herded her out of traffic and gave her a scratch.  She was a big, goofy dog that looked like she might have been part Great Dane or possibly pit bull.  Apparently, she was desperate for attention because she followed us all the way home.  I didn’t let her in and hoped she would go away.  She whined and barked outside our door for a bit and then seemed to have left.  Around midnight, when I was trying to go to sleep, I noticed that the neighborhood dogs were barking and there seemed to be a lot of commotion downstairs.  I looked out the window and saw “our” dog down in the yard.  People were throwing water at her and trying to chase her away because the resident dogs were barking at her.  She ran up the stairs to our level and, not wanting to disrupt the entire complex, I could think of nothing to do except let her into my apartment.

The dog was very happy to be admitted and made herself right at home.  She headed for the kitchen, stood up, and put her monstrous paws on my counter to see if there was anything up there to eat.  I had to put my trash in the refrigerator.  I cleaned the old leftovers out of the fridge and made her something to eat.  She scarfed the food and then curled up on the couch.  She was rather smelly, so I was thankful she didn’t try to climb in bed with me.