Monday, March 9, 2015


February 24, 2015

Interior, Our Lady of the Refuge
With our time in Mexico growing short, Pat and I decided to spend the day visiting Puerto Vallarta.  We ate a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs at home and then hopped a bus to take us into Puerto Vallarta.  I had a bottle of teak cleaner that I had bought back in November and been unable to take to Chiapas on the plane.  We stopped at Zaragoza Marine where I managed to exchange it for some easier to carry home fiberglass filler, despite being about three months outside their return policy.  I was very appreciative of their bending the rules for me.

Sand Sculpture Along the Malecon
Pat Enjoying the Sculpture
Prehispanic Dancers "Flying"
We needed to change buses, anyway, to get to Puerto Vallarta’s downtown area.  From Zaragoza Marine, we were able to cross the highway and catch a bus that took us to the center of town where we stepped off at the pretty, small Our Lady of the Refuge church.  We stuck our noses in there and then walked down the malecon, enjoying the sculptures and the sunshine on the beach.  We paused to watch pre-hispanic dancers perform the “flying” ritual, suspended from a tall poll, which Pat had never seen before.  We followed the malecon until we spotted the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, then turned inland to visit.  Puerto Vallarta was not a colonial city and did not really experience a growth spurt until tourism took off in the 1970s in the wake of the movie, Night of the Iguana.  As a small town, it did not boast a cathedral.  The parroquia (parish church) of Our Lady of Guadalupe was not finished until 1966.  It isn’t large or spectacular, but the architecture was interesting and it boasted a lacy crown that fell during an earthquake in 1995 and was replaced with a fiberglass replica.
Our Lady of Guadalupe

Lunch at the Omelet House
Enjoying the Malecon
Pat had visited the church several years before and eaten lunch in a nearby restau-rant called the Omelet House with her daughter.  We stopped in the same place to enjoy the two-for-one-margaritas and share some delicious quesadillas, guacamole and chips.  After lunch, we had just enough gumption left to finish our walk along the malecon to the Los Muertos Pier, where we stopped to chat with some French Canadians, one of whom needed sunscreen applied to his back and someone with whom to talk.  After we disentangled ourselves from the friendly Canadian, we worked our way back to the Rio Cuale and climbed down the steps from the bridge to the island in the middle of the stream where we found vendors lining the walkway from the bridge to the cultural center on the eastern end of the island.  We bought a few trinkets from the vendors and walked the length of the island and back before returning to the malecon to sample some ice cream.  Satiated, we made our way back to the city bus which we rode past the confusing transport hub at the Walmart to the airport where we were easily able to transfer to a La Cruz bound bus after a short wait.
The Beach at Los Muertos

February 25, 2015

Ramona Lounging on the Chica Locca
Wednesday, we met up with Jan and Ramona and we all went out for a whale watching/snorkeling cruise on the Chica Locca.  It was a windy day and the water was much rougher than the day I had gone out with them during my cousin Tiffany’s visit.  The rougher water made it difficult to spot the whales.  We saw some blowing in the distance, but never managed to get close enough to get a good look at them, which was disappointing. 
Pat Kayaking

We anchored in the lee of the Marietas Islands and played in the water while we waited for the passengers of the other tour boats to vacate the secret beach in the center of the island, accessed only by a swim through a sea cave.  I was eager to try stand up paddle boarding again, since I had been seriously out of shape the last time I tried it.  I managed to stand up and not fall, but the water was so rough that it was difficult to balance and the wind so strong that I kept getting blown away from the boat.  In order to battle the wind, I had to kneel.  I quickly decided to follow the example of my friends and return to the boat.

The Cave Entrance to the Secret Beach
Kimi Did His Best to Get Us Dancing
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          When the passengers from the other tour boats emerged from the cave, we donned our life vests and the boat dropped us near to the entrance where we could paddle through the cave and onto the beach in the eye of the island.  From there, we explored the side caves, although the big surf from the strong wind made the process more exciting than on my previous visit.  Although I saw more exotic fish than my first trip to the island, we did not stop to snorkel, but quickly returned to the boat.  Once aboard, we ate lunch and began to avail ourselves of the open bar.  Normally, the Chica Locca heads for a rocky spot off the coast of La Cruz and hangs out there, but the sea state did not allow us to travel comfortably in that direction.  The skipper did an admirable job of keeping the boat level, but he had to go almost all the way to Nuevo Vallarta and tack back to La Cruz to do so.  Large waves repeatedly surged onto the foredeck, chasing us from our comfy spot on the bow.  It was even too rough to dance, although Kimi, our cruise director, tried his best to get us going.  I danced on the bow with him, but it wasn't a sport for folks not at home on rocking boats.  Unfortunately, we did not see any whales, although we spent the entire afternoon on the water and did not return until about 18:00.

After a short break to clean up and drop off our gear, we met up with Jan and Ramona for tacos at the taco cart near the Glorieta.  We ate a leisurely dinner and enjoyed the great company.  It had been a long day and we were ready to relax in the warm evening air after a somewhat wetter and more exciting ride than we had been expecting.

February 26, 2015

Saying Goodbye to the La Cruz Marina
Eva Mandarina Beach Club
Sheep Grazing By the Beach
As Thursday was my last full day in La Cruz, I spent it saying goodbye and disposing of items I couldn’t bring home with me.  We spent the morning packing.  I sold my blender to Benito, the handyman at the condos where I was living and gave some of my liquor to the neighbors.  In the afternoon, we went down to the marina where Pat got lunch at the Poolside Deli while I made the rounds of the docks, saying goodbye to my friends.  The majority of my leftover booze, I took with me to give to Betty when we met her at the beach club for a drink in the afternoon.  We hung out on the chaises in the shade of the palapas, sipping cool drinks, until it was time for Betty to go teach English.                                                                                                                                                           Then Pat and I took a walk along the beach before eating a final dinner at the new restaurant, Peska, above the marina office in the space that was, until being recently enclosed, just a roof deck.  

Last Sunset in La Cruz
Movie Night at the Marina
We shared an order of calamari and then tried the fish tacos.  While rather expensive as tacos go, they were also much larger than usual.  The fish was finely chopped and tasty, although Pat sent hers back because she was expecting the usual fried, breaded kind.  I enjoyed mine.  It was a nice change from the usual fare.  We sat at a table next to Mike and Katrina (from PV Sailing and the office) and later Blanca, from the marina office, arrived to join them.  We chatted with Blanca when Mike and Katrina scampered off to go set up the movie equipment, before finally paying our check a leaving to go enjoy the movie ourselves.  The movie was The Judge with Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr. and we both enjoyed it.  Pat got a kick out of watching a movie outdoors on a breakwater and I enjoyed one last opportunity to spend time with my friends at the marina.

February 27, 2015

We were mostly packed, so it wasn’t difficult to get everything ready to go before noon.  Pat wanted one last opportunity to eat street tacos, so we left our packed bags by the door and trooped down the hill one last time to eat lunch at a taco stand on Langosta.  The little restaurant was run by a charming young couple who took advantage of my ability to speak Spanish to ask me how to say all kinds of things in English, such as, “mild salsa.”  The food was excellent, very reasonable, and the whole experience was delightful.  Katrina had told me it was a good place and I was rather sorry I had left it to the last moment to try eating there.

Saying Goodbye to My Lovely Apartment in the Sky
Once we finished lunch, we took a last walk around the town and then picked up a taxi from the stand at the head of Langosta to take us up the hill, collect our luggage, and drive us to the airport.  The fare was the standard 300 pesos.  The airport was very busy, but they whisked both of us through the check-in procedure.  Pat and I were leaving from the same gate, although my flight was two hours later.  I saw her off and then relaxed until my flight was called.  By leaving one day earlier, I had managed to secure a first class seat for fewer miles than it would have taken to procure a coach seat the following day.  This turned out to be a real advantage, as I was able to check both of my duffle bags without having to pay a cent and no one questioned my carrying a guitar on board with me.  I had no trouble whatsoever with luggage until I arrived in San Francisco and had to rent a cart to carry my mountain of belongings to the curb where Scott came to collect me.  I was home.

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