Life in Puerta Vallarta

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Where I stayed
Posada Iris

Flag of Mexico  , Pacific Coast,
Friday, January 14, 2011

Monday 3 January we took a 40 minute boat ride to the village of Yelapa. There is a road but it is very poor, takes hours, and is used mainly to transport building materials when they are needed. En route we saw more whales. Yelapa is a traditional village stretching up the hill from the beach, with stone walled and thatched roof palapas. In addition to the original buildings there are a few newer structures providing accommodation to the hippy community. There are not many but they look as if they have been here since the sixties and Jim felt out of place with his short hair and (relatively) clean shaven chin, although of course we are the right age. Jim carried 2 bags up the hill for a lady returning from 4 days in Puerta Vallarta where she had had to go to get her computer repaired. She told us a little about Yelapa as we walked. She is staying at Oasis, which has a couple of different types of cabanas and she was staying for 6 months in a “yome”, which, she informed us, is a combination of yurt and dome, a round structure on stilts with a thatched dome roof and which is big enough to contain a bed and table. She is writing novels for adolescents.
We were a little way up the hill when a commotion started and a man ran down telling us to get up the side of the very narrow track because some bulls were loose and running down the hill. A woman hung over her wall telling us to get up on her wall quickly. We clung on until the bulls passed but there was only one that was running free, the other 3 were being lead and behaving well. I didn't manage a photo of the wild bull as I was clinging to the wall.
We did not see any vehicles in Yelapa other than a few quad bikes. horses, donkeys and mules are the main method of transport.
Online we had read that there is a waterfall 30 to 40 minutes walk up river from the village. After walking for an hour and a half (but slowly as we stop and look at birds) we met someone returning from the falls who said it was still 45 minutes walk, so we gave up as we had to be back in 2 hours to catch the last boat from the village at 4.45pm. Despite not reaching the falls it was a good walk with lots to see including 2 very big iguanas in the trees (the first time I have spotted them by myself) but the special sighting of the day was the Mexican pale-billed woodpecker. I was beginning to give up hope of seeing one as so far we have seen 3 other varieties of woodpecker numerous times on our travels but not this one. It is amazing with the bright red head which looks unreal. The picture does not do it justice but will give you an idea of what it looks like.
On the return to P V it was necessary to jump out of the boat into shallow water on the beach. I misjudged and ended up sinking to my knees and soaking my trousers. They were dripping most of the way home.
Another day we took a bus inland to El Tuito, a much older town than Puerto Vallarta. There was not a lot to see in the very small town but we had a good lunch there. There was no menu but the restaurant proprietor told us what was available (although most of it we didn't recognise) and his young business partner tried to interpret. Eventually we just went with his recommended starter (I think there was only one). It was a serving dish of soured cream surrounded by pieces of a local hard cheese, accompanied by dishes of chopped onions, peppers, tomatoes, chillies etc and served with tortillas and nachos. By adjusting the accompaniments it was possible to choose the level of ferocity of the chillies and although it probably raised our cholesterol levels over the flashing red line, it was delicious. My main course was an omelette with chorizo and Jim had chilaquiles which is often served for breakfast and is a mix of something like nachos softened in salsa with chicken and refried beans. Then we had to provide some English translations such as “melted cheese” so he would know how to describe them in future. We couldn't eat anything else for the rest of the day.
On the way back I sat next to a Canadian woman from Calgary who spends 6 months of the year here in P V as many Canadians do (in fact we are beginning to think Canada must be empty as so many are here). She, too, is a writer but she writes her “memoirs” of her romantic travel exploits. She said it took her a while to summon the courage to publish as she worried how her family would react, but their response to her first effort, “The Cuban Chronicles” was very positive so now she is on her next book about her love life in Mexico. She mentioned she has recently had her 50th birthday so I am not sure how many more books she hopes to write! Presently she is “researching” in P V and of course the good climate has beneficial effects so hopefully she will have many further exploits to share. More information can be obtained at www.wandasthilaire.com for anyone interested (as in Wanda St. Hilaire which I assume is a nom de plume?). P V is big on writers' workshops, which are advertised everywhere, not surprising really given the number of people who spend the winter here in “creative mode”.
Some days we are lazy and allow time to drift by. Today was one of those days as yesterday we did a difficult and strenuous climb so we needed recovery time. We started off intending to spend the day on the beach but it was 3.30 pm by the time we arrived there. After a couple of hours enjoying the sun and watching the world go by, we started walking home but stopped to watch a game of volleyball which lasted until it was too dark to see the ball.
I have to tell you about the buses as they are a big part of our exploration here. The town buses run so frequently that we have never waited for more than 2 minutes and it costs 6 pesos (about 30 pence) each journey however far you go. It would probably have been fair to describe them as ramshackled 30 years ago so you start to get an idea of their condition. Most have cracked windscreens and windows, seats missing and faulty doors. They are personalised by the drivers so many have religious artefacts like rosaries and holy pictures hanging inside and I have even seen velvet curtains surrounding the driver. As the town is cobbled, they rattle, swerve and clatter down the roads. They lurch to a stop to let you off and you are ejected and land on the pavement dazed and disoriented in the same way trainee wizards are ejected out of fireplaces when they first use the magic transportation system in Harry Potter stories. The drivers are very patient and helpful and so far I have never seen them be anything other than pleasant and cheerful. If they see people coming, they wait, if you stick you arm out anywhere on the road they stop and I have even seen them reverse to collect a passenger! People often climb aboard to “busk”. Some are better than others. One guy climbed on with a guitar on a very bumpy road, and he managed to stand up and play and sing really well which was amazing. We had difficulty staying in our seats.
There are few bus stops with signs and for some buses which go outside the town it is necessary to find out online where they start from. It is usually a random corner without any sign but the bus always seems to turn up. Sometimes you pay the driver, sometimes you buy ticket from someone standing nearby. Again it often tells you online with useful tips like “get your tickets from the lady whose hair is often black but not always”!
We seem to travel in a mist of confusion but always manage to get where we intend eventually. We decided to take a trip to San Sebastian, 2 hours to the north-east of PV. There are 2 bus companies going to San Sebastian and both start their journeys from the northern edge of town. After starting out early and walking to the nearest “corner” point where we thought we could find a bus the roadwas deserted. It was a quiet road on the edge of town, with no sign of a bus or anyone waiting. I had seen an empty bus parked further along the road and I saw the driver go to the shop. When he returned I went along and asked him if we were in the right place. He seemed to think the other bus company was where we should be but he didn't know where they were. He thought for a few seconds, then told us to jump in, and took us off to find the bus stop. He stopped twice to ask for directions but eventually managed to find the “depot” where one bus was parked. I can't imagine a driver in England doing that. We thanked him and jumped off, only to find we had missed the morning bus by 10 minutes and the next one was at 2.30 pm (it was 9.30am, there are only 3 buses a day to San Sebastian).
So we changed our plan and decided to go to the seaside town of San Francisco instead, which was not very far away. This required 2 buses and on each one we didn't have a clue where we were going but each time the drivers told us when to get off and where to get the next bus. I think we must have perfected the “clueless and incompetent” look, because we are looked after very well. We were more confused than usual that day because we had not realised that San Francisco is also called San Pancho. It took some time for us to catch on and when we arrived there it was only a street leading to the sea but with a great surfing beach.
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Comments

Wanda St.Hilaire on

Hola!

Thanks so much for mentioning me and my book in your blog ... that's actually my real name!

Hope your travels are going very well.

Ciao,
Wanda

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