May 28 - June 7, 2002: Beautiful Puerto Vallarta and Preparations to Return Home for the Summer
This will be my last journal chapter for about 6 months, as on June 13th we will be leaving our cruising life and departing for our home in Rosarito Beach, where we will commence a NEW adventure… adjusting back to “life on land”. Although long-term cruising has been Joe’s and my dream for years and years, I still have many close attachments at “home,” and would be lying if I didn’t say that I also miss my land-life and my friends and family at home. Our plans are for us to come home every year (during hurricane season); I feel that way we will get the best of everything. This will be our last summer though at home for a long time as once we leave for the South Pacific next spring, crossing the equator to the Southern Hemisphere, our “summer” (i.e. the hurricane/typhoon season) will be winter in San Diego… but perhaps that means Christmas’s at home in the future. Anyway we are both looking forward to returning to the states for a few months to visit friends, family, and to enjoy our new house that we only got to live in 8 months before we departed. Southern California’s June Gloom will be a cool blessing to our roasted hot humid bodies!
Joe says he would probably have been satisfied to stay here in Puerto Vallarta for the summer, but I think he’ll also be happy relaxing again in our oceanside home… plus he has taxes to do and lots of shopping for spare boat parts and replacement supplies to buy (that we will take back to Mexico when we return in the fall) that will for sure occupy his time. Although Joe is planning to fly back down to “check on everything” boat-wise sometime in August by himself, we both will return to Paradise Village here in Nuevo Vallarta and Mi Gitana on October 12th and the journal chapters will begin again.
There are a lot of things we have to do to prepare to leave the boat for the season. Even though because of the surrounding high mountains and the enormous size of the bay, Puerto Vallarta has been hurricane free for 155 years, they still have tremendous summer storms. And lightning is one of sailboat’s greatest enemies. Last summer at the marina we were in at Mazatlan, there were 4 direct hits to sailboats by lightning destroying most all the electronics on board. Here at this marina in Nuevo Vallarta, although there were no direct hits, the power supply to the whole marina was hit, so many boats that were plugged into what we call “shore power,” also had their boat interiors “fried.” (Every boat has an individual power supply cord that plugs into the dock that supplies 110 electricity to the entire boat.). So we, (as many boats who learned from last year), while we are gone, will be disconnecting our power cord and having a maintenance person plug us in during the daytime for one day a week (The thunder storms mostly happen at night). We need this done to “recharge” for a day a week to make sure our house batteries do not go dead in our absence. Another lightning strike prevention we are going to take is to attach a chain with one end to our mast (and shrouds) and the other will dangle in the water… the object being if lightning does hit our mast (the highest point), the current will then go down, follow the chain and go into the water instead of inside the boat. Of course everything inside will be unplugged, but if we take a direct hit, even if not plugged in or in use, electronics can be destroyed. Joe also will try and cram as many of the sensitive electronics (VHF and single side band radios, GPS and chart plotter, etc.) into my tiny oven as possible for more isolation and protection. This is probably a lot more information than you wanted to know… but just thought I’d let you know a little about how different or concerns are on a boat.
Besides the above, of course Joe has a list a mile long of maintenance things to do before we leave, and we also have to take most everything off our deck and either put it down below or in a “dock box” — not only for storm protection, but also from the intense sun. We have hired a Mexican local, who comes highly recommended, to watch after our boat while we are gone. His services also include keeping the boat cleaned and waxed and the stainless steel shiny as well as having the bottom of the boat scrubbed and de-gunked. (All kinds of goodies grow on the bottom of boats while they are still in the water, especially in warm tropical water… and we don’t want to return to having our bottom look like an underwater jungle!)
Of course not having any power for 6 months means we have to eat or throw away everything in my refrigerator and freezer before we leave, which is killing my gourmet soul, as I have been saving and hoarding some special treats that I bought before we left: smoked salmon, montrachet goat cheese, pesto sauces, chutneys, lots of special Trader Joe gourmet items, pounds and pounds of special order bacon that Dad gave Joe for Christmas…and my cherished sour dough starter! I will try and find a home for my sour dough starter on another boat that has occupants for the summer, but the rest I am trying to make into meals. Of course this means we are not eating out as much as I’d like to — and there are so many great restaurants here I want to try. But I’m sure they’ll be waiting for us to try when we return!
Now a little about Puerto Vallarta as when I left off in the last chapter, we had just gotten here and were still trying to adjust to the heat, humidity and our new surroundings. Well I’m not sure if one ever “adjusts” to this heat and humidity. You just try and get any work chores or any “outside activities” done in the early morning as by 11 AM it is “dripping wet” time, so you’d either better like to sweat or be in air conditioning, or be sitting/lying in the pool! [We are also in another time zone here… the equivalent of central time. And it is not dark out until after 9PM (which although lengthening the day, it also means it doesn’t cool down usually — what little the temperature does drop — until around 8-9PM!] OTHER THAN the tropical heat and humidity (which I’m told is “only” bad from May through October), It is absolutely gorgeous here, especially if you like lush tropical looking surroundings. I know I mentioned how lush and beautiful the flowers and plants were here at the resort/marina, but I am still in awe 2 weeks later every time we walk around the place. Peacocks are strutting freely on the grounds, the parrots, toucans, and birds can be heard chirping (or whatever the sound is they make) all day long, and we can even hear Simba, the lion, roaring every evening as he becomes more alive after his daytime siesta.
The resort is so “self-contained” that many people who come here for vacation never leave the resort grounds. It’s hard to believe that outside of the grounds here is a city (about a 10 minute bus ride) of 300,000 people. What is even harder to believe is that in 1970 the population was less than 10,000 here and there was no electricity! Tourists back then were few and far between. Historically what brought this town to life (as a tourist destination) was in 1962 when they filmed John Houston’s movie, The Night of the Iguana here with Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. They were not married (at least to each other) at the time and started a torrid love affair while here on set. The paparazzi evidently went wild and started writing not only about the affair, but also showed photography and film of the area that the affair was taking place, Puerto Vallarta. Also Richard Burton bought Liz a house here so they could be together privately and they frequently spent time here for years after. Shortly thereafter, now “world famous,” with an aura of steamy tropical romance, the jet set decided this must be the “new” place to be. So the invasion of Americans (and also a lot of Canadians) began: an airport was built, 4-5 star hotels appeared out of nowhere along the miles of beaches, along with 1st class restaurants for the wealthy tourists…and hence the huge population growth in such a short period of time. Hard to believe that 2 actors could go down in history (literally they are in the history books of Puerto Vallarta) as having so much influence on transforming what once was a quaint farming and seaside fishing village along the coastline of Mexico into a resort town with over 3 million visitors annually. (Well that’s your history lesson for the day!)
Like a lot of Mexican tourist towns, Puerto Vallarta has its “new” sections of town and the “old”. Old Town is lined with cobblestone streets and has its huge ancient (Spanish era) cathedral in the center. There are lots of small parks with wrought iron benches and an open-air theater for concerts, and bands to play on a Sunday afternoon or evening. In contrast along the waterfront only blocks away from the cathedral and town center, the streets are lined with huge bronze sculptures that are definitely “modern” (fairly bizarre) art by a famous Mexican artist. And of course along the sandy beaches, there are wall-to-wall hotels, most of which are huge resorts. Besides the ocean and water sports (boogie boarding, kayaking, fishing, surfing, parasailing), there are lots of art galleries, night clubs and bars, tennis courts, a water park, go-carts, and golf courses… although if you hit your ball into the water, on most of them, you leave it as many of the ponds have crocodiles.
The first week we were here we took a city tour like we did in Mazatlan to “familiarize” ourselves to our “new vacation home”. Not wanting to be ripped off by resort hotel prices, we went into town to arrange a "discount" city tour. We were at the tour bus stop in front of the Paradise village hotel and waited on a bench there for a half an hour to be picked up. Tour bus after Tour bus picked up other people waiting for their particular tour company to show up. They were all nice huge touring type air-conditioned buses. Since the other tourists waiting had all come and gone, and we were still waiting, I thought maybe we had been forgotten. But sure enough a few minutes later (35 minutes late), a dilapidated old bus WITH NO SHOCKS and a door that wouldn't close, stopped and THAT, of course, was our tour bus. After about 30 minutes of riding in this bus, I had both hands over my boobs to keep them from bouncing any more (and YES, I had on a bra)... as the bouncing was really starting to hurt! They picked up a few other passengers at a few other resorts and then dropped us off downtown at a place where they consolidate all the "pick ups" for all the different tours and divide you up appropriately for your tour on your assigned bus. THANK GOD we were assigned a different bus... but same small type w/ air-conditioning, but barely working air-conditioning! Anyway... It turned out to be a good and informative tour... and long. We were picked up at 9:35 and not returned to the hotel until 5PM.
Besides touring Old Town (where we got out and had a "walking" tour for a few blocks around the square, the arches, the cathedral, etc), we went to a tequila "factory" for a demonstration on how they make the evil spirit. Puerto Vallarta is in the state of Jalisco… and Jalisco is famous for its Tequila. 90% of the world’s tequila is made here in the state of Jalisco, mostly in an area between Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara. The “factory” stop was not really a factory as we know it, but an information center where they show you how it is made (from the blue agave plant… the core of the plant (similar to the body of a pineapple, not the cactus-type leaves), distilled (similar actually to wine making process), and aged (again similar in that they use oak barrels). The amount of distilling (single versus triple) and the amount of aging (none for the clear mescal up to 20 years in oak for a their an~ejo “reserve”), all determines the color and quality of the final product. Of course at the end of the tour was the best part where they had quite a few types available for tasting. Tequila drunk solo (i.e. not part of a margarita etc.) is foreign to most Americans, unless they are drinking “shooters” in a bar. But there are hundreds and hundreds of different varieties and brands of tequila…most of the good stuff not leaving the country of Mexico. We were told the majority of the “exported” tequila, such as the popular Jose Cuervo Gold is only 51% from the agave plant versus 100%. Our guide explained that the other 49% is made up of additives (including sugar cane) and give it more of a gold color…and it is the additives that give the hangover headache! For all your tequila lovers who now might want to switch, the guide said all “true” tequilas would have on the label “100% agave” written on it. In Mexico, they SIP a fine oak aged tequila as we would a fine cognac, and our guide pointed out many that were for sale that were in the $300-400 price range. No, we didn’t get to try any of those! They also made (and we got to try) several flavored tequilas, such as coffee flavored, almond flavored, cherry flavored, etc. Again, similar to Kahlua, Amaretto, or cherry brandy… only with tequila as it’s base. Anyway, I certainly have a whole new appreciation of the pride the Mexicans take in their special liquor.
Onward, our tour route to took us over some hilltop windy roads with cliff-lined enormous white w/ red tiled roof villas (multimillion dollar mansions of the rich and famous) all with beautiful breath-taking views of the ocean. Then we just seemed to drop into this emerald cove with a white sand beach lined with little palapas and a few small hotels. This was the bay and tiny community of Mismaloya which was the setting of the movie mentioned above, The Night of the Iguana. Then we continued up and up into the mountains, passing waterfalls and up to about 4,000 feet into a jungle type setting, (also passing by the film setting of the Arnold Schwartzneger movie, “The Predator”). Most of the “non- discount" tour buses stopped for lunch at a famous restaurant called “Chico’s Paradise.” Our discount bus passed that one by and stopped at a small dive around the corner. Actually the open-air restaurant was right on to a river (now during the dry season, more like a creek)… huge boulders and a beautiful view and setting, so it wasn’t such a bad deal after all. We feasted on giant stuffed and bacon wrapped prawns, which were delicious… plus a few tropical drinks, resulting in a nice nap for the 2-hour trip back to our hotel/marina! It turned out to be a wonderful tour and when we return here this fall and the weather is COOLER, I plan to take jungle river tour, and we also hope to rent a car and visit Guadalajara and various places enroute.
Mostly our activities in the last couple of weeks as I mentioned above center around finding someplace cool to be during the hottest part of the day. Joe’s favorite place is the Internet café in the shopping mall (which is part of the resort complex so really close) and we both love to spend the afternoon with a good book sitting in the shade by one of the pools or on the white sandy beach under a thatched roof palapa reading and watching the waves. Not to mention that we also can get served ice-cold tropical drinks while doing this. Then when we get hot, we jump in the pool. They also have a lot of activities all day long around the pool: Bingo, trivia, water volleyball, etc., all for prizes.
Also we’ve been taking advantage of the spa/workout facility here, which is really first class. I have been attending daily now for going on 2 weeks 2-3 back-to-back classes (3-4 hours total) of aerobics, mat exercises, and yoga, so I get a really great workout. One of the aerobic classes twice a week is Latin Dancing. After 10 minutes, I am soaking wet and my face is lobster red… but I try and keep going for the hour giving my best to the Samba, Cha-Cha-Cha, etc. Gone are the days when I could dance and dance for hours and hours. I knew I was out of shape but didn't know how much until I tried these classes... I can hardly touch my toes and have a hard time doing most of the exercises, but at least I am trying. Of course what makes it so hard is now my weight is higher than it’s ever been. It is hard to diet while cruising though as it is like we're always on vacation... eating out a lot, drinking almost daily (and NOT wine, but fruity or higher caloric drinks), and although doing more walking, in general, we are leading a more sedentary life. Joe eats snacks (chips, pretzels, cookies, etc.) almost all day long, so it's hard for me to abstain with it always present... and of course, w/ every meal out at the restaurants, there's always chips and salsa. AND ON TOP OF ALL THOSE EXCUSES, once it got so hot and humid, it's REAL hard to get up the mental, let alone, the physical energy to want to battle the heat and humidity to try and exercise any. SO anyway, Mexico and cruising life, has not been kind to my weight. (You know it’s getting bad when the “one size fits all” is too tight!!!) I don't expect this exercise routine of only 4 weeks prior to coming home will make much if any dent in my weight, but at least it will prevent any more LBS. hopefully from settling, and perhaps will help my strength and increase my get-up-and-go a bit. [Of course, another incentive is the workout area is well air-conditioned!!!]
The other thing a lot of the cruisers do at every port we've been in so far is play 2 particular games: one is a group card game called Mexican Rummy and the other Mexican Train (a domino game)... Anyway loving games and also wanting to “get involved” and to meet some of the other cruisers here, I decided to go and learn the games and have really been enjoying them. So 2 afternoons per week for 3-4 hours each are spent on these games now. Now if I could just get Joe to be sociable WITH me!!!
Not a lot more to add to the above but I want to finish this off and get it e-mailed out today (and this may end up being my shortest chapter ever!)
We are still pretty much following our above routine of activities since I last wrote, working out in the mornings, going by the pool or beach in the afternoons (or Mexican Train and Baja Rummy for me 2 afternoons/week). We usually go to town one afternoon per week… Joe shopping for boat parts, me doing grocery shopping or getting nails or hair done… and occasionally we get out of the complex for dinner (although the restaurants right here are plentiful and we still haven’t tried all of them. Tonight we will join several other cruising couples for dinner in town and then to a bar with live music and country dancing… or so I’m told. Might be interesting and even possibly fun for a change of routine.
This Monday just before sunset is the big event of the solar eclipse. I guess even a lot of people are flying in to see it as this is supposed to be one of the best places to view it. We will be sure and be somewhere for dining with prior to sunset with a good oceanfront table.
Besides the upcoming eclipse, the other excitement around here is Simba the lion, just a day or so ago, got himself a lioness, Lola. So far though they are in adjoining areas and not yet united. He has been going crazy with his roaring. (There is a barrier between the 2 so he cannot see her, but he can smell her.) The monkeys have a baby as well as the ostriges (sp?), which are as cute as can be. Perhaps when we return in October, Simba and Lola will be working on adding to the “baby” family also.
The other thing different we did this week was to go scuba diving on a “tourist” catamaran dive trip. We had bought all brand new equipment last year before we left but had never even tried it out. So before venturing out to do dives on our own, we wanted to go with a dive master on an “easy” dive to make sure everything worked as it should. We had not dove earlier on our cruise as the water has been too cold for my likings and now it is about bathwater temperature. (Although they did have us wear shorty dive suits as we went through some very cold thermals.) The trip we selected had 2 different dive sites, still in Banderas Bay (where Puerto Vallarta is located) but quite a ways away and therefore was an “all day” trip. The boat was filled mostly with snorkelers and 3 other divers beside ourselves, so the diving part was not too crowded. Although nothing like I am used to as far as beautiful tropical reefs and thousands of colorful tropical fish (like we will soon be diving in the South Pacific), the dives we did, got us in the water, familiarized us with our equipment, and at the same time we did see some tropical schools of fish, moray and spotted eels, sting rays, and lots of puffer fish. After the 2nd dive, the catamaran pulled up to a beach and we had a wonderful dorado (mahi-mahi) lunch in one of the beachside palapa huts. Plus on the catamaran on the 1-½ hour return trip to Puerto Vallarta, we had an open bar. It was a great day! And we are looking forward to hopefully hitting a few other Mexican dive sites when we return in the fall.
So that brings you up to date on our activities, our currently land-based cruising life and us.... UNTIL NEXT FALL when we return to our adventure.
Go to Next Chapter (currently on hold until we return in October)