Lovely Loreto and welcome return to Puerto Vallarta

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February 5th 2018
Published: February 6th 2018
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Loreto, Baja Sur
31st December - 16th January 2018

After the traditional city resort of La Paz, the tourist madness and mayhem of Cabo San Lucas and the remote rural retreats of Mulege and San Ignacio our tour of Baja California Sur terminated in Loreto. Like La Paz, Loreto is positioned on a bay within the Sea of Cortes, protected by numerous small islands. Arriving here reminded me of Goldilocks and the three bears. Whereas La Paz and Cabo are too big for a lengthy stay, Mulege and San Ignacio too small, Loreto is perfect. Because of it's isolated situation, the couple of small neighbouring towns one in each direction on the road are at least an hour and a half away, Loreto is very peaceful but has everything necessary for comfort. However before saying more about our visit I want to flash back to Cabo.

I forgot to mention a memorable snorkeling trip in Cabo. One day on the beach we met a couple of ladies from Washington State who told us they had had a very enjoyable snorkelling trip around by Land's End. They had enjoyed it so much they were going again the following day in a small boat with the same man. It sounded good so we asked if we could join them and met up the next morning at the boat dock.

Unfortunately the wind had picked up and the sea was quite choppy. We climbed aboard easily from the jetty but were not sure about getting off to snorkel because of the waves. Becky and Sally reassured us that there were young men at the landing point to help. The 'beach' where we needed to get out of the boat was tiny, only a few metres of sand between big rocks but as promised the helpers soon had us ashore, balanced on the rocks as there was so little sand at that period of high tide.

We prepared to snorkel but the choppiness was increasing. Becky and Sally decided it was too rough for them while Jim and I struggled to swim out between the rocks and the incoming boats. The landing area was so small and steep only one small boat at a time could pull in close enough to let people out, and that was also the way off the beach to snorkel, so avoiding incoming boats was hazardous in the swell.

Once away from the rocks the sea was a little less rough so we managed to have a good snorkel, seeing big shoals of fish of various species. However after an hour or so it was clearly getting wilder so we decided to return the next time our boat came by. The young men called the captain to let him know we were ready to leave and he arrived within ten minutes.

By that time, because of the tide and wind, the space for the boat to squeeze between the rocks was only a couple of metres wide and because the sand drops away suddenly there was no space to approach the boat safely. I hung back for a moment to check we had picked up all our belongings and when I stepped towards the boat Becky and Sally had already disappeared on board. I say disappeared because the sea was so rough the boat was crashing down then lurching upwards, way above my head, and at the same time the wind was trying to spin the bow around into me. The young men were using every ounce of strength to stop it spinning.

The rather large guy on my side of the boat signalled me to take a step closer to him to prepare to get on board but I just looked up at the bucking bow above my head thinking, this is not possible and I must be crazy to even think about it.

This next part you might not believe, I didn't and I was there! As I was thinking I needed to back onto the rocks quickly before the boat hit me, I felt a light touch behind my knees and shoulders and before I knew what was happening I had been placed gently on the cross piece inside the bow. I recovered from the shock and moved over to a seat on the opposite side in time to see Jim arrive just as elegantly, but in his case placed horizontally on the rail. We quickly eased him down into the boat. I really could not believe what had happened. The guy must not only be fantastically strong to lift me above head height but also have perfect timing as he had placed me as easily and gently as Jim might have laid down a newly ironed bedsheet on the top shelf of the airing cupboard. I didn't have a single bruise which was miraculous given the conditions.

To finish the excursion we were taken for a view of the arch at Land's End. Becky took a few photographs and sent them to us for which we are very grateful as because of the conditions we had not taken our camera onboard. We hope the winter weather in Washington State is being kind to them and thank them for their company as well as the photos.

So now back to Loreto. Our stay here has been very gentle with ten nights spent in Hotel 1697, the date when the Mission here was first founded, which is on the edge of the small, tree-lined central square and comprises a handful of delightful rooms, a restaurant and a micro brewery, El Zopilote (the vulture). Jim could not ask for anything more! Kieran, who owns all this, is the only person we have spoken real English to (as opposed to American English) for about two months.

One evening there was an open mic in the restaurant run by long stay North Americans. Despite a shaky start when the music could only be described as 'banjo hill-billy', with thought provoking lyrics such as 'The kayak pirates of Loreto' and 'The beach where old gringos go to die', as the evening progressed the offerings became more professional (I was not drinking so I can swear that that did not influence my judgement) and enjoyable, especially when we could recognised the music and lyrics.

Another night, amidst the Christmas lights, we watched a performance in Spanish on the stage in the square. I think it was the equivalent of our pantomime as the locals seemed to recognise the characters and know what was coming next. We only realised something was going to happen when Jim who had been for a walk around the square returned to say he had just bumped into two middle aged angels. He was not surprised by their apearance, only their age. I could understand many of the phrases they used on the stage but it did not seem to make sense so I think it is a performance that requires some previous knowledge, a little like Punch & Judy.

We did go out for a boat ride around the nearest island, Coronado, to snorkel and look for birds. I was keen to snorkel as I had not been in the sea since Cabo. When we reached the right spot I jumped in ahead of Jim. He was so pleased I did as the water was freezing! I called and warned him not to come in as I knew he would get too great a shock. I am usually happy to swim whatever the temperature but this was icy even wearing a wetsuit, the coldest I have experienced since I dived in the Orkneys and my face in particular was really painful because of the cold. We had not taken account of the fact that it is nearly two months since we swam in warm water in La Paz and we are also further north. I was soon out of the water again.

The grey volcanic rock of the island forms fascinating structures and although we did not spot a blue footed booby we did see some with white feet. The boatman did some fishing and encouraged Jim to take the rod. It was unbelievable. The fish did everything but hop onto a plate! The rooster fish were so easy to catch I think Jim was pulling one out every ninety seconds.

Loreto has a pretty malecon and marina and at the south end of the beach (which is chocolate brown in colour) there is an unspoilt river mouth covered in birds. The river itself is dry at this time of the year but the high tide washes a little way in, carrying plenty of fish for the birds. We spent hours watching them and trying to get a decent picture of the resident Osprey. I love my camera and it's excellent zoom, but it is not good at focusing on birds in flight.

Another day we hired a car and drove up into the mountains to the very small village of San Javier about 35 kilometres away. It too, has a mission and very little else with the buildings being only one storey and of very basic structure. When you see a village like that it makes you realise how impressive the missions must have appeared in the 17th and 18th Centuries when the Jesuits first built them.

Apart from driving on the main road to La Paz or Santa Rosalia in the other direction there is nowhere else to go in a hire car. We went a short way, about fourteen kilometres along the road, to what we thought was another small village called Nopolo. We were shocked when we reached it. It is a ribbon development of condominiums along the strip of land between the main road and the sea, stretching some three kilometres, and with clear plans to take it much further if the road layouts are anything to go by. It is horrendous, built in a kind of Disney version of Mexican community style, highly coloured buildings closely crammed together and without any real atmosphere or, as far as we could see, village centre, and inhabited by North Americans who want to be insulated from the 'real' Mexico. There might have been nicer parts but to be honest we were so horrified we just wanted to race back to the real world of Loreto.

We love getting to know the rythm of life in Mexico and seeing the local characters. For instance, here in Loreto there is an elderly man who seems to make his living by selling shaped balloons and playing his xylophone. This instrument is free standing and solidly made of wood about two metres long. Unbelievably he carries it around on his back and moves around the town playing to restaurant customers.(See photograph).

Eventually the time came to leave Loreto and we retraced our steps, bus to La Paz, then Baja Ferry across to Mazatlan. Again the ferry was very comfortable with a meal included in the price and this time we were able to eat at 7.30pm rather than midnight as on the way over. We passed a very pleasant evening chatting to a young couple from Leeds, Jenny and Gavin, who are spending two years travelling up and down the Americas from Argentina to Alaska and numerous places in between. It was the first time we have talked to people from the UK (apart from Kieran the owner of 1697 in Loreto) in a couple of months.They have a landrover with them and then a tent which they erect on top of the vehicle to sleep in.

From Mazatlan we travelled by bus for eight hours to Puerta Vallarta, where we started our Mexican travels in October 2010.

The bus station is approximately 14 kilometres north of the town near the new marina and airport. We took a local bus to this area in 2010 and there were very few buildings and even fewer people around then. This time we decided to take a taxi into the town which worked well as the journey took much longer than expected because of the heavy traffic so gave us chance to chat to the driver. We could not believe how the area has changed. From the bus station all the way to Puerta Vallarta centre new high rise buildings and commercial complexes have sprung up from nowhere. Our driver said that in four years the town doubled in size and the rate of development was phenomenal. Even now many new condominiums are under construction in PV centre.

Our hearts sank as we crawled along this congested linear development between ocean and hills and both of us were quietly asking ourselves if we had made a big mistake returning to somewhere we had really enjoyed seven years ago. Received wisdom is that you should never go back. Finally we reached PV centre and checked in to Posada de Roger.

By this time we were very hungry so after taking the bags to our room we decided to go and find something to eat. As we left the Posada we both agreed that we probably needed to rethink our stay and perhaps cut it short to go somewhere quieter. There were crowds of people walking the Malecon and, quite dispirited, we joined the throng. We recognised the familiar area by the sea and adjacent park which happened to be full of market food stalls so we bought a couple of burros, large wraps full of chicken, and sat down to eat them.

Within minutes, despite the bustle and noise of the Malecon, the magic that we remembered from our previous visit washed over us and we were so happy to be back! Plus of course, the burro was very tasty.

Away from the road traffic it is a lovely atmosphere with musicians wandering up and down, individuals and small bands strolling along, others playing at restaurants, fire eaters performing in front of diners on the beach, street artists, and vendors of everything from balloons, toys, clothes, food and drinks to jewelry slowly parading along the Malecon . Despite the huge increase in condominiums in the area the heart of the town has not changed and everyone enjoys the evening buzz of activity and music as they stroll along. After an hour or so everything started to quieten down and it was only then we remembered that we should have put our watches forward an hour as PV is an hour ahead of Mazatlan.

Posada de Roger is in a perfect position only a couple of minutes from the beach and new pier, which is designed to look like a huge sail and lit up colourfully at night. The posada has four sides around an internal courtyard rising up three and four storeys high. Although it is occasionally a little noisy it is a small price to pay for the location and does not usually disturb us although earplugs are available at reception if needed. Our room is comfortable with a fridge, and there is a lovely clean, spacious and well equipped communal kitchen on the roof allowing us to cook whenever we wish although the choice of restaurants and street food surrounding us is vast. Self catering most of the time enables us to keep costs down as well as choosing simpler and hopefully heathier meals but I have to say there is temptation everywhere here including cakes and cocktails. We have to be disciplined.

Most people here are from the north, the US and Canada and the majority are retired. PV is also the Gay capital of Mexico. What amazes us is the amount of food consumed all day long. The restaurants are continually crowded and many have queues outside every evening. I suppose the high density buildings ensure a constant supply of hungry holiday makers but it is easy to believe it is the same people eating non-stop to the point where I want to intrude and interrogate unsuspecting diners along the lines of, " Is this your late breakfast, or early lunch or is it just a snack in between and are you coming back for dinner?" Luckily Jim has prevented me from putting this plan into action so far.

Posada de Roger has proved to be a very comfortable and social place. We have had some fascinating discussions from the evolution and spread of laguages across the globe to the best place to buy fresh vegetables and even learnt a new card game.

As we were happy to be back in PV we decided we would stay another month and return here after our planned trip to see the monarch butterflies towards the end of February. Posada de Roger is fully booked but they have managed to find space for us in a separate apartment they own just a block away. We could have booked to stay a little out of the centre at a beach hotel but we like the buzz of the centre malecon.

So all was well until I had a little complication. I went to bed one night and could not sleep. Whichever side I slept on I had sharp pains right down my leg from hip to toes, clearly some kind of nerve pain. After a sleepless night I went to Spanish classes for the first time the next morning at the International Friendship Club. They organise a range of activities in order to make a profit which they then use to support local charities. Jim had a Bridge session at the same time so that worked well and I enjoyed the lessons despite being tired.

As there were more lessons the next day I was keen to get a good night's sleep but unfortunately that did not happen. As soon as I was in bed I started having really severe pains from my back around to my stomach, and the whole area was in spasm, like constant cramps. I tried not to disturb Jim and spent much time in the bathroom leaning up the wall as I could not sit or lie down. A couple of hot showers took the edge off the pain enough to keep me sane.

When morning finally arrived I asked at reception about a doctor and they said they could have one come to me or I could go to one in the pharmacy a block away. That sounded the quickest so off I hobbled for a consultation which took place in the tiny pharmacy where the doctor, who spoke excellent English, listened to my symptoms, then asked questions and diagnosed a trapped nerve and swelling at the spine. He prescribed medication, explained how to take it and charged £6. I am unclear whether that was the cost of the medicine and the consultation was included for free or it is a two for one deal. Thankfully the tablets had an immediate effect and everything gradually improved. I have finished the medication now so am just keeping fingers crossed that the problem is resolved.

So we had a gentle week, pottering up and down the malecon, watching the world go by, cooking simple meals in the kitchen and delaying any more complex sighteeing until I was fully fit. However by Friday evening I was ready for some excitement so we went to the 'Charro' at the far end of the malecon. There is a Charro Championship going on at the moment in the nearby arena which we believe is a traditional Mexican style rodeo. It is difficut to be sure as the information given is sketchy. However we did find out there was some event starting at 11pm on the malecon where a donkey was due to parade about 500 metres along the path.

Of course it was nearly midnight before anything happened. Then a small crowd mainly of Mexican people had gathered and a small donkey arrived pulling a cart carrying a large container of beer and driven by a young child with some help from his father. Two cowboys were on horseback behind. The cart moved about ten metres before stopping again. I was trying to see what was happening when another cowboy, with a big smile, and shaking a bottle of tequila, held it above my head and started pouring it into my mouth. The bottles are designed so the alcohol does not just pour out, it has to be shaken, thankfully, otherwise I might have drowned! It was an interesting experience.

Other people were handing out beer in glasses and eventually we were both given tequila in the more conventional style of plastic cups. We realised almost immediately that the cart was never going to travel any further down the track as people clustered around for the free drinks. It was an unexpected event and like everything seen in Mexico, all done with a gentlemess and good grace which meant there was no pushing or shoving as one might expect in the UK. Despite the time the crowd was made up of families of all ages.

I will close and post the blog now and perhaps say more about PV next time. Most of the photographs in this blog are of Loreto with a few at the end taken here in PV.

Additional photos below
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6th February 2018

I got quite a chuckle reading your account of how we were loaded onto the boat after attempting to snorkel in the rough waters. Sounds like Jim was successful at fishing. Shots of Tequila! You two are awesome! Anxious to read your next post. Safe travels.
6th February 2018

Great read once again ..
Hi there - glad to see you are still enjoying your Mexican adventure and that you are keeping mostly healthy ... ... P&S x

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