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.

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