Christmas in Puerta Vallarta

Trip Start Oct 01, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Mexico  , Pacific Coast,
Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year to you all

We hope you all enjoyed the holidays and survived the bad weather without burst pipes or other winter problems.

Los Tules, in Puerto Vallarta, provided our holiday hideout as we took advantage of the comfortable accommodation (complete with hot showers at any time of the day or night!), pools, beach and super-sized terrace. The first room they gave us was very dark with a tiny balcony which was permanently in the shade, and we overlooked the very noisy high rise neighbouring hotel. It took a a few days but eventually they moved us to a much nicer apartment in the middle of the complex, surrounded by the gardens, and as we were at the top of the building it was as if we were living in the palm trees.

Most of the fortnight was spent lazing about, enjoying the sun, reading (exhausted their library in 10 days) and making a few forays into the town to walk the malecon, but we did splash out on a lovely meal on the beach on Christmas Day, and at midnight we saw the New Year in on the beach from where we could see the fireworks right across the town.

We went on a whale watching boat trip for a day. It included a simple breakfast, whale watching, followed by a chosen activity and lunch. We saw lots of humpback whales (very difficult to photograph) and then I had chosen to make 2 dives while Jim snorkelled. The sites were around a small group of protected volcanic islands, Las Marietas. I have dived lots of coral reefs which look like beautiful underwater gardens as the corals form what look like flowers and shrubs which move in the currents as if a breeze is blowing them. However, these dives were different because of the volcanic topography. There were great rock outcrops and cliffs underwater of a dark reddish colour, giving the impression of a desert which has recently had heavy rain and burst into bloom as the rocks were dotted with low growing small soft corals of blue, pink and green. Although having less fish life than a true reef, there was plenty to see, including 3 different kinds of rays, green eels, black and white striped snake eels and tiny nudibranches (brightly coloured and patterned snails) as well as the usual tropical fish.

Full length wetsuits were provided but I used my shortie suit (short sleeves and legs) because I know from experience that the standard suits are far too long in the legs and arms for me and the excess material gets in the way and creates buoyancy problems. The guide did warn me that I would feel the cold (70 degrees in-water temperature), but I thought the cold was the lesser evil. I had forgotten just how quickly the water drains heat from the body. After the first dive I was shivery and by the end of the second I could feel my core body temperature had fallen as the cold seems to come from within, but lunch soon repaired the damage. Then we discovered that it was a free bar for the rest of the afternoon, and as soon as a glass was nearly empty a member of the crew arrived and filled it up. Oh dear, we were quite ashamed of ourselves by the time we arrived back in the marina! But it was a really brilliant day.

Our post New Year plans originally included going up in the mountains to the north in order to visit the Copper Canyon by rail, but after a few days here we rethought that strategy. The weather forecast for the north predicted very cold weather so we decided because of that and the short January days that we preferred to stay in the warmth of Puerto Vallarta. It made sense to enjoy the hotel while we were there and then when we moved to cheaper accommodation we could go out and explore the area more thoroughly.

Finding a new hotel or hostel was more difficult than usual because this is a more expensive area and our usual standby, Hostelworld, had nothing suitable. We found some hotels online and went to check them out. Most were fully booked until the week after New Year. In one hotel the man on reception asked if we wanted to stay for an hour or longer, so we quickly decided it was probably not what we were looking for! Eventually we found Posada Iris, basic but adequate and far enough from the seafront to be reasonably quiet, (until a bus rattles down the street on the cobbles and the whole building shakes and that sets off car alarms), and if all is well we shall stay here for 3 weeks.

We have not encountered English tourists since we left Tulum, 4 weeks ago. Here it is mainly Canadians, US and Mexican tourists. We have met a couple of English people working here, one of them runs “Harry's Bar”, the only English pub we have found so far. (Not that we are especially looking for them but we knew it had wifi)

Puerto Vallarta strikes us as the least Mexican town we have visited because of the number of US citizens resident here, (47,000). But it has the Mexican “quirkiness” that we have come to expect. Here it takes the form of sculptures along the malecon, metal on land and sand sculptures on the beach. It is a pretty area as the town is situated on Banderas Bay surrounded by the jungle clad mountains of the Sierra Madre. There are so many birds here that we can't research them quickly enough to keep up with new sightings.

Ps We had our second night at Posada Iris last night. First night we slept really well but last night we were awoken suddenly about 2.30am by the most horrendous, blood curdling screaming which went on and on. It was scary as it sounded as if someone was being tortured, (or having a baby, Jim suggested, but I didn't make such a horrifying noise in labour) and then there were men's voices arguing as the screaming continued. We stayed quiet and eventually, after about 20 minutes, peace descended but it took a while to go back to sleep. When the young man (son of the family, who speaks English) saw us this afternoon he was very apologetic. He said tonight there won't be a problem because it was a woman guest who was so drunk on tequila that she did not know what she was doing, but he is never going to allow her back again. We are keeping our fingers crossed for a good night's sleep.
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