Puerto Vallarta - Week 1

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September 2nd 2007
Published: September 2nd 2007
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Santa Barbara Villa where we are stayingSanta Barbara Villa where we are stayingSanta Barbara Villa where we are staying

This is the front door where the car is parked but when we go out on foot we go down the stairs to another level.
Friday 31st August

After an early (7am) start we made our way to the TTUR bus (an aircon public bus) stop. We decided to try this way rather than the easy way of grabbing a taxi as we had enough time to change our mind if it didn't work. This was Judy's idea of a bit of a challenge! The first bus ignored our wave as we weren't exactly at his stop, the second one took off as soon as it dropped off the passengers. Nothing like the buses in Acapulco who stopped everywhere. The third one we caught and arrived at the Central Camionaire with an hour to spare.

On leaving the terminal the bus driver made a short detour to pick up a woman and 2 young children. They stayed in the front section with him for some time before finding a seat in front of us. We realised from what the children were saying, that their father was the driver. About ½ hour before one of the major towns the bus stopped and the family was transferred to one of the baggage holds entered from the side. Here they stayed until we were well past the
Inside Santa Barbara Villa Inside Santa Barbara Villa Inside Santa Barbara Villa

Is that Judy in the kitchen?
town, an inspector having checked the driver's paperwork and walked through the bus counting passengers.

The bus was a new Volvo which travelled as comfortably as a sedan, which was just as well because about 150km out the toll road was closed because of an accident and we had to make a detour which added 2 hours to the 5 hour trip.

The detour gave us a great insight into this part of Mexico. The stereotype view of a desert with only cacti and sleeping, sombrero wearing locals with an occasional donkey is as true as kangaroos jumping down the main streets in Australia. Instead, there is greenery everywhere, tropical jungle type, with cleared areas where corn and cacti are grown. The cacti is used in making tequilla.

We had no difficulty in finding our home for the next month, a business card from Jim had the taxi driver heading in the right direction. We are now residing in a lovely 2 bed, 2 bathroom condo overlooking the Bahia de Banderas (Bay of Banderas) in the Old Town or Romantic Zone. A few jokes have been made re this, both before we arrived and since. Gays are
The Artisan's MarketThe Artisan's MarketThe Artisan's Market

Lots of colour and things to look at.
in abundance and it certainly adds a little colour and peacefulness.

A beachwalk to the main jetty was a prelude to a tasty meal at a restaurant nearby. Once again we live on a hill and this on top of full stomachs ensured both of us slept well.

Saturday 1st September

After Judy had her beach run and Rags swam up & down the beach a bit we had breakfast on the balcony and revelled in the cool. Last night we had all the windows and doors open to catch any breeze and at 3am were woken by thunder & lightning. The rain could only be described as gushing down, but it cooled the air.

Our first drive in Jim's Chev Malibu went well and despite taking a wrong turn we ended up at Wal Mart, a huge supermarket. Here we spent over an hour wandering up and down aisles comparing prices with home and stocking up on some supplies. It will be great able to eat at 'home' for the first time in a month. Alcohol is exteremely cheap here so the ingredients for Marguaritas were one of the first items bought. The trolley was very full by the time we got to the checkout, and the bill was just over 1000 pesos. Sounds a lot but is just over A$100 and will keep us in food and drink for some time.

Wireless networks are all around us but are secured. On questioning the next door neighbour, Rags found out that he had the one with the most powerful signal and he gave us his password key. We found we could log onto his network, but not access the net. Will have to wait until he returns.

This evening we went for a walk along the malecon, a boardwalk in the downtown area where performers such as the Voladores, street perfomers and artists do their stuff. The Voladores involve 5 men, a leader who plays on a flute and a drum, and 4 performers. They climb to the top of a pole about 30m high where the leader plays and prays whilst the other 4 with ropes coiled around the pole attached to their waists, fling themselves off and then spiral down in increasing circles until on the 13th revolution they reach the ground.The 13 revolutions by 4
The SeahorseThe SeahorseThe Seahorse

This is the Sehorse Judy jogged to this morning (Monday). There are so many of these scultures that it is easy to set the target at the next one each day.
men symbolises the 52 year cycle of the Axtec calendar.

Sunday 2nd September

Another run for Judy and a longer swim for Rags albeit a little later than yesterday. Even so there were few out on the beach.

Just after breakfast the rain set in, not overly heavy but enough to keep us inside. This gave us an opportunity to catch up with the blog, do a load of wash and generally relax. We were intending to go to the local market but, as we will be here for some time, this will be done another day. We actually feel as if we are on holidays and don't have to do all the things we tend to do!

Rags fiddled with all the settings for the internet and whether by sheer luck or good old knowledge, managed to get an internet connection. He has been most frustrated without it as we tend to rely on it. He says it makes it more like home to have the Internet and has fiddled for hours trying to change our "Local access only" to Internet acess. We still don't know what the problems is/was. Judy
Bridge over the Cuale RiverBridge over the Cuale RiverBridge over the Cuale River

This bridge is the beginning of the beach boardwalk, here known at the Malecon.
patiently settled into a novel and let him "get on with it".

For dinner Rags cooked a prawn stirfry which we both enjoyed. As it was still raining we sat back and enjoyed the 60s music coming up from the “Blue Chair” hotel mixed with the sound of the local geckos in the background. Total bliss!

Monday 3rd September

Do you know that the only way we remember what day of the week it is is by having to write it in this blog. I can't believe it's already September.

This morning we began the day as usual with Rags swimming and Judy jogging but that might have to change as Judy's knees are starting to give her problems so she might have to practise her overarm as well!

Rags sat right next to “The Blue Chairs” again today. If you don't know what that means Google “The Blue Chairs” and you'll soon find out! A gorgeous suntanned guy came up and asked him if he was ok and told him to let him know if he had any problems. A few minutes later Judy arrived to protect him! We went for a swim, the water here is so lovely, warm and calm, it's almost like taking a tepid bath.

Once again by the time we ate breakfast and readied ourselves it was late morning. We headed to the artisans market. Jim has some lovely pieces here in the condo we'd love to see if we could buy some similar ones to take home. If we find we can we'll have to also investigate the cost of shipping. The sellers here are keener to sell than in some of the other markets we've visited and have a walkaway price just like in Bali but that's because we were just looking to see what could be bought and weren't actually buying. Much of the stuff at the markets is the same and not much is good quality so we quickly tired of looking here but not before we were captured by someone selling tme share. He snuck up on us a bit and even though we've been warned we were tempted by the $US250 offered and thought we've got plenty of time so why not? The local man says he gets paid his commission whether we buy or not and we told him we'd been to a couple before in other places - so that's what we are doing tomorrow morning.

Out on the street again we saw a store selling Huichol art which is like the one we showed in the picture of art work in Tlaquepaque. There are yarn paintings like that one and also bead paintings and masks and animals that are very clever but oh so hard to get home. The old woman there spoke very good English and we discussed the issues with her. She told us where to find the company that arranges the shipping. It's in the Hotel Zone so one day when we are out in the car we'll go and find out more. We walked along the back streets and looked in a few shops until we grew tired of this and then we looked for somewhere to eat.

Now I know a lot of people think we mention food a lot but it is very much part of the travel experience. This time we found somewhere that sold all you can eat Tacos (for about $10 each).
Basically this means that you lay a couple of corn tortillas on
Great Huichol artGreat Huichol artGreat Huichol art

The woman in the shop was happy for Rags to take this photo.
the bottom of your plate and then you pile the food on top! There was plenty of variety - pork skins in sauce, chicken in chocolate sauce, marinated pork loin, fish, grilled tenderloin tips as well as a variety of sauces and a few vegetables.
A couple of cervezas washed the food down well.

By this time we were ready to head back to the condo. Once there we ventured into the roof top pool to cool down and indeed it was much cooler than the ocean and so very refreshing, however after this all we wanted to do was have a nanny nap which we did. Once awake Rags checked the mail and downloaded the day's photos while Judy finished the first of Jim's books.

Next Rags made the Margaritas as it is Judy's turn to write up the blog today. So armed with a Margarita Judy found it easy to recall the events of the day.

Once again we fell asleep to the sound of the surf crashing on the shore and the squeaking of the geckos that are everywhere.

Tuesday 4th
All you can eat TacosAll you can eat TacosAll you can eat Tacos

Beautiful presentation too!

The new cleaning lady, Rosa, was expected at 9am this morning and we were to be picked up at 10am to attend the timeshare presentation. Rosa was here on the dot and got to work. We weren't quiet certain what her duties were and as she spoke no/little English and we speak very little Spanish, we just let her get on with it. Jumping ahead a little, on our return at about 4 pm, the apartment was spotless, linen & towels washed and the bed remade. Wish we could find one like her at home!

The homeshare 'tout' arrived at 10am. He wanted us to have proof of paying rent as this required by the people running the sales. Also ID and a valid credit card. We explained to him that no receipt for rent was possible because it was a home exchange. He rang around and finally decided a friend would forge an email giving a receipt! No skin off our nose but with all the delays and stuffing around and reneging on the payment before the event, Rags told him we were calling it off. Horror of horrors! He immediately bumped up the bribe for
Refreshing dipRefreshing dipRefreshing dip

Don't be too jealous now!
us to attend to US$300. Why not we said!

A 20 minute drive out of town brought us to some very spiffy developments. A golf course surrounds the complex and there are many pools and recreational areas. Everything was 5 star. We met our salesman, Chris, a young ex-Seattle dairy farmer. He took us for a delicious buffet brunch before showing us some lovely apartments.

Chris was a very affable young fellow and we think he knew he had little hope of making a sale after he ascertained we moved to different places all the time in our travels and liked living with the more 'local” people. He perservered though and after we questioned and knocked back his first offer he went on to offer 2 other cheaper versions, then when this didn't get us another chap (from Australia) tried another tack, until finally another young salesman tried the cheapest of all. By this time figures were spinning in our heads and we gave a catagoric 'no'! After several more “catogoric no s” they got the hint and paid the 'bribe' plus money for the taxi back. In all about 5 hours of our time which we quite enjoyed and has given us some idea of how others live on their vacations. We were quite impressed that there was no “aggro” and everyone was very chatty and friendly. After we had been paid we were let loose so we wandered around admiring the beauty of this resort.

A walk to the local supermarket for a couple of items preceded a dip in the pool, with Margaritas in hand while we watched the sun slowly setting.

The music from a nearby hotel is playing again tonight. It is all the stuff we love (been around a while like us!) but for some reason it was quiet last night and we missed it. It finishes at a very reasonable hour - about 10.30pm.

Wednesday 5th September

After a late start we headed south from Puerto Vallarta in the car. Rags wanted to fill the tank and check the tyre pressure and Judy assured him that something she read said there was a service station (Pemex) on the south edge of town. Well after driving for quite some way we discovered that there wasn't or rather that our condo is more south than the
"Fine Dining""Fine Dining""Fine Dining"

We had a great meal here at El Tuito. Salsa here really had a good dose of chilli as did everything else!
Pemex so we turned around and came back! The road was full of giant holes after recent rains and there was much road work to pass.

We stopped at a few scenic points and noted that once again as the road headed upwards to into the hills the temperature came down. This was a relief especially for Rags who really seems to feel the humidity. As it is the worst month to be in Vallarta due to the climate many tourist places like the Botanical Garden and restaurants were closed. Once at our destination, El Tuito, we found a couple of food places. We had a choice of the more popular raod side taco stand or the restaurant but one can have enough of tacos! As we were the only customers at the restaurant the owner, Rafael was very attentive and we communicated with his few English words and the few that Judy has learned.
The food was excellent and allayed Judy's fears that it might not be fresh. Firstly was the pre dinner nibbles that consisted of 2 types of salsa's (both very hot) and corn chips, all obviously fresh. Next Rags had the “Casa especial” which was
Our front doorOur front doorOur front door

This gorgeous seahorse helps us to find our apartment.
hot prawns in chillie sauce with cheese and Judy a thin steak with salad, refried beans and guacamole.

From here we drove off the main highway down a dilapidated main street that led to a little square.
As one of this town's claims to fame is that it is the mescal capital of western Jalisco (the state we are in) when we saw a store advertising raicilla we pulled over and went in. When we told the owner we had a picante of espanol he proceeded to relate in Spanish the story of how the raicilla comes from the sweet sap of the maguey plants which blooms only once a year, then dies. Luckily as he described the process of making it he had a large painted board that had this represented pictorially.
He gave us a taste of the 3 grades of racilla and we bought a small bottle of the Excellente grade as a thank you for his efforts. His name was Elias and he proceeded to show us certificates for his raicilla, he was very proud of it and indeed it has his name on the label. He is called “El Primo”.
He then took us up through his house to the rooftop so we could see the view and the place where the maguey grow.

Although we walked around the main square little was open and we took a photo of their church but didn't enter as Judy had bare shoulders and we didn't want to offend.

We made a couple of stops on the way back including one at a place Boca de Tomatlan, a little waterside village, reached by driving down a rather steep cobblestone street that led to a petite brown bay where the river ran into the sea. There were many cars but once again almost nobody in the restaurants. These restaurants seem rather overpriced compared to what we have seen elsewhere in Mexico and I think are aimed at well heeled tourists so they don't get much local trade in the off season.

By the time we arrived back at the condo it was time for a dip in the pool before our evening margarita. We spoke to Jim on the Skype phone and he recommended a restaurant so we decided to go there for tea but when we arrived we found it closed and from the
Mayan Palace - Pool areaMayan Palace - Pool areaMayan Palace - Pool area

You could be anywhere in the world here - who'd think you were in Mexico?
papers under the door the owners had been away for some time. Most of the area around this little plaza is shuttered and streetside stalls stand empty.

We'd passed a couple of other likely prospects so we headed back the way we'd come but when we arrived at the first it looked hot and cramped so we decided to eat at Cuates y Cuetes where we had our first meal in Vallarta. Linda, our waitress, saw us and remembered our first visit. She recommended the whole red snapper which we had with garlic, yummy! Where else in the world could we eat like this barely 10-15 metres from he crashing waves? We sat and watched the sun sinking before wandering back along the beach to the condo. Another wonderful day in paradise.

Thursday 6th September
Today we discovered a little beach called Conchas Chinas (thanks Jim for the directions). It was only a matter of turning left and heading up the street from the back door. (much better on the way back because we could walk DOWN hill.) It was a little rocky beach surrounded by exclsuive looking condos and one particularly incredible house right on th beach.
Mayan Palace - Pool areaMayan Palace - Pool areaMayan Palace - Pool area

This circular pool circumnavigates around the larger ones. How lush the plant growth is!

Picking our way across the rocks further north after we'd had a lovely swim we found the stairs back up to our street. These were reminiscent of Jacob's Ladder in Perth and in fact there were a group of young men running up and down them obvioulsy for exercise.

A trip to the marina area was on the agenda for today. Rags wanted to drool over the boats. In fact they were the same as other places and the wharf was filled with touts who tried to grab us to do tours or visits to time shares. We drove around and admired the huge hotels before heading to the supermarket to replenish the stocks. It was incredible that everywhere we went were road works so what should have been short trips turned into long ones.

By the time we got back and unpacked we were ready for some rest and relaxation and that's just what we did for the rest of the day!

Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 25


Mayan Palace - InsideMayan Palace - Inside
Mayan Palace - Inside

Incredibly spacious and ostentious inside. The initial foyer has half a dozen 30 metre Mayan statues in it and I'm not exaggerating however it was dark and too hard to photograph.
The local schoolThe local school
The local school

Our teachers complain now, imagine if they had to work here - 32 degrees C and 80% humidity. What a box!
Raicilla AgaveRaicilla Agave
Raicilla Agave

Here Elias Rios Sanchez proudly explains the history & the making of his award-winning agave. Made even more interesting as he had little English, we little Spanish, but we managed!
El TuitoEl Tuito
El Tuito

The main square is surrounded on 3 sides by buildings such as this. Lovely cool rooms run off the verandahs.
El TuitoEl Tuito
El Tuito

The fourth side of the square.
Boca de TomatlanBoca de Tomatlan
Boca de Tomatlan

This is the small fishing village, now catering for tourists.(note the tattered Canadian flag!) The photo flatters it.

This lighthouse was a landmark on the very expensive marina we visited Thursday morning.
Sweets, sweets and more sweetsSweets, sweets and more sweets
Sweets, sweets and more sweets

Mexicans seem to love sweets. In this supermarket there were rows of sweets

4th September 2007

Chicken in chocolate sauce! Sounds... interesting
5th September 2007

sounds too good!
I think that you have to be aware that you're not making a good impression on us poor workers - we might have to come over enmasse and check out these "poor" living conditions - do you take boarders? Love the choc sauce on your chicken - taste good??? Chjeers Lucy and Roman
5th September 2007

hurray, rosa is working out. we haven't even met her yet. we have had some "difficulties" with past cleaners. i keep trying to call you there but no joy. is the phone working when you pick it up? sorry you missed maritza in guadalajara. quite a lot of our pieces there were bought in san miguel de allende and dolores hidalgo. vallarta is generally much too expensive to buy good things. so you tried chicken mole did you? chicken and chocolate gravy is not our thing, but you should try the red mole sauce. it is goooood. be sure to go to tia catrina's restaurant on the corner of pino suarez and francisco madero. near the local square by the pier. it is great. for a great local beach go out the back door and walk to the left. follow it all the way down to the water. then turn left and walk along the water around the headland to conchas chinas beach. very pretty and uncrowded. no shade there so take the umbrella.
6th September 2007

Mole (Chocolate Sauce)
Rags loves the chocolate sauce . Judy's avoiding it. The weight goes on all too quickly without that!
7th September 2007

rainy season
c and c (cuates y cuetes) is our favourite place for sunset happy hour. we know linda well. there is a webcam there so we can check on the beach happenings. ask them where it is and then you can arrange to have all your friends check in and watch you raise a margarita in toast to them. the jealousy factor is huge!!!! by the way, cuates y cuetes means "pals and drunks". since you are there off season quite a lot of the restaurants and shops are closed until late october when the tourist influx will begin again. by october the rains end and it will not rain again until next july or so. i personally love this season because vallarta is so green and lush. by spring it will be pretty brown and dry like the rest of mexico. have they started building on the lot next door yet? i think we are going to lose our jungle view out the side window.

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