On the way home again – 5 January

How do you start the day in Bucerias, Mexico, at +25 C and end the day in Winnipeg at -20 C?  Well, you take a taxi from the condo (sniff, sniff) and get on a plane.

Breakfast in Mexico…

We ordered up a taxi yesterday, but I guess my reputation precedes me – they sent a 12 passenger van!  Well it was a nice enough vehicle, but we sat in the first row behind the driver, which was very cramped – there was some kind of a compartment across behind the front seats.

Asked for a taxi to the airport, got a van…

On the way to the airport, we saw something interesting – notice the nativity depicted above the Wal-Mart entrance.  I’ll bet you wouldn’t see that in Canada!

Look closely and you will see the nativity depicted above the entrance!

And we saw a VW “thing” while on our way to the airport.

VW “thing” – we saw a few of these in Mexico.

Eric had arrived home a few days before, so he came to meet us at the airport.  It turned out that he couldn’t track down keys to my De Ville, so he had to bring Dayna’s little Alero to pick us up.  Oh well, we fit in just fine.

Reluctantly back in the ‘Peg!

So Winnipeg is a little chilly compared to Mexico, but at least it is home.

By the way, when I had remote start put into my car the following Saturday, they found the other set of keys.  I think they were under the seat, sigh.

One of the condos in this little complex we’re staying in, is for sale!

So for the low, low price of US$163,000, condo unit # 3 could be yours.  What a pleasant thought!  Oh well, no time soon, but it sure would be nice to have someplace to run away to.  And I must say, Barrie and Helen have found a nice little hideaway here in Bucerias.


Deflation, Flaky’s Fish & Chips, one last dip in the ocean – 4 January

Sadly, today is our last full day in Mexico.  We were up at the usual time, about 09h00 or so, can’t remember, ha ha – that’s kind of the definition of “vacation”.

We needed to vacate to let Estella, the maid, clean the condo.  So at 10h00, we zip around the corner where they’ve just put up a sign that says they can inflate tires, toys, balls, whatever.  Rather interesting, I think maybe it’s a small commune of young folk, and they are having trouble making ends meet.  This home on the corner has been alternately quiet and loud for days.  A few days ago, a sign appeared on the corner, advertising the availability of a shower.  The next day, another sign.  And two days ago, this sign about inflation of balls, etc.

You may recall (well I hope I blogged it back when we first arrived anyway) that when Eric bought the little football to play with his cousins in the ocean, it was flat and needed inflation.  We had a devil of a time finding someone with a needle to fill it up!  Too bad we didn’t know about these guys on the corner, then!  Oh well.

Anyway, today I wandered into the compound (almost every home is in a walled-in compound, should add this to my observations) and called out a few times, but nobody answered.  Again I wandered, but again didn’t go right to the back.  Then just before I was about to leave, I saw a sign on the door that said something about “timbre” and had a small cowbell hanging there.  I shook the bell, and a young fellow jumped out of the far building.  I showed him the football and said deflate, and he said yes, yes.  On the window ledge, he moved an image of the Virgin Mary, and there was an inflation needle!  Great!  Then he started off with the football.  I kept saying, “empty”, “let air out”, “deflate”, but he went into the garage where an old dusty car was kept, into the corner, and fired up the compressor.  “No, no, no,” I kept saying, and took the ball and started squeezing the air out.  He held up the hose end and pressed the release, letting out a burst of air, saying something in Spanish which I would imagine was, “This will fill the ball up!”  But i kept squeezing and saying, “No, deflate!”  Finally he twigged to what I meant and turned off the compressor, grabbed the ball from me, and squeezed it flat, chuckling.  We both learned something, I think.  I asked him, “How much,” and he protested, “No, no.”  But I gave him all the change I had anyway, about 9 pesos, and we both went away happy.

Lesson learned: look up the key word(s) in Spanish before going down to get the ball deflated!  I just looked it up on Google Translate (wow what a service), “desinflar” is the key word here…

Then we went down to the Royal Decameron Resort and ordered our taxi to the airport for tomorrow morning, one step closer to home, ugh.  [ it may always be nice to get home, but I hear it’s a little cold and breezy back home so I’d rather stay here, thank you very much! ]

We wandered down to the market and picked up a few things, including a couple of gifts.  A couple of them were pottery and were heavy, so we took them back to the condo.  Estella wasn’t quite done, but she let us dump them off.

One of the places we stopped at is run by a bit of a character – a nice guy.  For the month of January, he accepts Canadian Tire ‘Money’ for payment!  He gives it to a Canadian friend who takes it back to Canada and buys tools, etc. that he needs and ships them back to him.  He showed us his present wad of Canadian Tire ‘Money’, it was quite a bit, six inches or more thick!

For the month of January, they take Canadian Tire ‘Money’ in payment!

Proprietor of the shop that takes Canadian Tire ‘Money’, a nice guy!
A craftsman making objects of art from pieces of wood, with a Dremel tool.

The craftsman talking to tourists about his work.

A glass shop in the market where Dayna purchased a few things.

Now, I had seen this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant run by a fellow from California, as it turns out – Flaky’s Fish and Chips, just had to try it.  We went for a late lunch at Flaky’s, it was quite good!  I’m not sure the dietitian in Dayna really liked the battered fish, but hey, once in a while, come on!

We returned to the condo, chilled for a bit, then I ran two blocks to the bank for a bit more cash to cover tonight’s dinner out.

On the way up to the bank (and I mean “up”, see below, it’s quite an uphill walk), I saw a newly fallen coconut sitting along the side of the road.  It was still there on the way back, so I grabbed it and brought it back, just for fun.  I had never had my hands on a more-or-less fresh coconut before!  Well, this one had gravel on it from being on the roadway, and it had split on one side and was gooey from losing some coconut milk, so it wasn’t going to be eaten, but it was interesting just the same.  Dayna hadn’t handled one before either, so I handed it around.  Now I guess it goes out, so sad.  Actually, there are old, dried coconuts and pieces of coconuts all along that street, as I guess this is not a new thing.

The steep road to the bank.  Notice the grazing horse, it has been tied up on that lot the whole time we’ve been here!

Dean’s prize coconut, ha ha.

This was our last day to catch some rays of the wonderful Mexican sunshine.  So, with the bank & the coconut out of the way, we zipped down to the beach to grab our last few rays of Mexican sun.  I went for a swim in the ocean and Dayna went for a brief dip.  I got a mouthful of salt water, wow, sputter sputter.   After flopping on the beach and drying off in the sun, ahhhh, I went back to the condo to shower & change.  The rest stayed on the beach for another hour and then came back to do the same.

Dayna ready for last dip in the salt water!

Dean has goggles in hand, ready for last “laps” in the ocean!

Barrie and Helen went for a walk on the beach before supper, and Dayna and I chilled on the palapas.

Next up, a dinner at Eva’s Brickhouse restaurant.  This being our last night here, we decided to eat out, and a bit upscale at that.  Now, the highest of the high end is Mark’s, which is a half block away, but that’s really a bit much for us.

Eva’s Brickhouse restaurant.

Barrie, Helen, Dayna and Dean at Eva’s Brickhouse restaurant.

Three of us had the special, which was a slow roasted pork, 7 hours on a mesquite fire, wow, so tender!  And the fixings, great too!  Dayna had the jumbo prawns dinner.  And for dessert, chocolate lava cake, oh my word!

Now down to packing, then chilling out and time for bed.  Tomorrow the crazy airport and the excruciating 4-3/4 hour flight back to the ice and snow of the ‘Peg.

Later, we took one last walk down past the square.  Joe Crow’s was rocking out, but the big news was the house party about a block from the condo.  Yikes, sounds like they might go late.  Very loud, live band, disco lights, the whole works.  I guess Tuesdays are special here?  Or at least this Tuesday.

General observations on first visit to Mexico

Here are a few arbitrary observations on my first visit to Mexico.  They don’t seem to fit in elsewhere, or I neglected to note them way back:

  • The large majority of the vehicles here are standard transmission.  All the buses are standard, and have huge stick shift levers over to the transmission in the centre of the bus.  Even SUVs and large pickup trucks have standard transmissions.  Most of the automatic transmission vehicles I’ve seen are from outside Mexico.
  • There are a lot of stray dogs here.  Just hanging around in the street, eating out of garbage.  They do not threaten, they just flop in the street.  In fact, at night, they sometimes sleep in the middle of the street – probably because it’s a warm spot, or something like that.  
  • The people here are genuine and warm.  They are not pretentious about their lot in life.  They don’t look down on those who sell stuff on the beach, or do supposedly lesser jobs, or jobs that would be lesser in our culture.  Wow, they just do it, and don’t complain.  They don’t take our “no, gracious” personally, they just move on.  We could learn a lot from these people!
  • And speaking of jobs, they use a half dozen people for a job that would be done by two in Canada.  I think it’s their way to cope without welfare.  For the smallest little job, they have someone doing it.  This seems to be a good thing – it gives them something to do, dignity and self confidence.  Even for tough, difficult jobs that we would get a machine to do – like digging for a foundation or a pool, for instance – they get a bunch of guys with shovels and wheelbarrows to do it, wow!  And, I understand that the vast majority of building projects are done with concrete that is mixed by hand on site, wow!  Tough, tough people.
  • The roads here are, um, interesting.  The main roads are well paved.  The main streets are stones with pavement between them.  Pretty nice.  The side streets are not nice at all.  They are stones but with clay or packed sand between them.  The side streets are rough, an ankle sprain waiting to happen!  But, when they need repair, the boys just dump sand in the middle of the street and get out their shovels.  They dig up the stones they might need to dig up, put stones back in, pack sand or dirt or clay or whatever it is in around them, and walk away.  As a result, all of the vehicles here have rattles, squeaks and bad suspension, or so it seems.
  • I’ve heard that Mexicans are legendary for being laid back, slow and tardy.  Well, it’s not all true for sure – our cabs have always been right on time, our buses have driven like mad to keep some kind of schedule (not sure whose).  But overall, they don’t get fazed over anything.  As per my notes when I was parasailing, if they get worried, you should be worried.  But, as a result, the garbage piles up in the streets – because it seems, nobody worries about garbage.  Especially at the end of the street at the beach, there is garbage laying around, it smells awful – but the Mexican folks, in their laid back way, just walk right past.  Wow.
  • There are a lot of Canadians down here.  Like, we are talking, there can’t be many left up there in Canada!
  • Most houses are built as part of a walled-in compound.  Some are more isolated than others.  Dave’s observation was that you never know what’s behind the wall.  The wall can look awful and crumbling on the outside, but then one day you see the gate open to let a car in or out, and there’s a beautiful house inside.  On the other hand, some places seem to be better fortified than others.  The one shown below, for instance, I call “the embassy” because it has broken glass on top of the brick walls, and the walls that are made of wrought iron have outward facing “hooks”.  These are typically used to fortify diplomatic residences in other places in the world!

Sayulita, surf, and world famous chocobanana! – 3 January

Well, today started lazy enough – I was slow to get going.  Actually, both Dayna and I were, but, as usual, I win the prize.  The four of us finally got out the door at about 11h00.  We caught the same bus that brought us here from Puerto Vallarta – these buses, which already bring you a long way for the ridiculous cost of 12 pesos a person (right around a dollar), actually run alternately up to Villella and to Sayulita, something like another 3/4 hour.  Well we were lucky enough to have a Sayulita bus waiting for us as we arrived at the stop on the highway.

The ride was, um, interesting.  Shortly after leaving the populous area of Bucerias, the road went down from 4 lane divided to 2 lanes, and snaked through the mountainous jungle.  It reminded me a lot of the drive up number 10 highway through Riding Mountain National Park, but of course with very different vegetation.  There were beautiful mountain streams, clearings where you could see the treed sides and tops of the mountains, and curve after curve after curve, as the road followed the passes and the streams.

The bus driver shifted down, then down again, as we climbed in the jungle.  There was a lot of traffic, including big trucks, other buses, passenger cars, and much more.  Then, descending the other side, it seemed we were going a bit too fast – but hey I’m not a thrill seeker.

We arrived in Sayulita, and all the Mexican folk on the bus got off.  The driver looked a little perplexed, then we realized that the bridge ahead over the river was out – we weren’t going to get to the other side unless the bus started to fly!  There were about a dozen other gringos remaining on the bus too, and we had a good chuckle as we got out.

The bus to Sayulita

There was a temporary footbridge over the river, good thing – because cars and trucks were forced to drive through a “ford” crossing right through the water.

View of bridge out – from footbridge – bus is stopped behind fence on the left!

Autos crossing, from footbridge.

A view of truck crossing through river, from the beach.

As we crossed the bridge, we were solicited to donate into a can for some cause that I didn’t understand, and declined.  This was the beginning of about five different people in different places, asking for money with a can.  One of them said they were asking for an orphanage.  If I knew it was legitimate, I would contribute, but as it stands, I didn’t.  I don’t know if I should feel bad or not.

We wandered down to the beach in Sayulita.  Barrie advises that was significant damage from a huge storm that rolled through this area in August, damaging the beach severely.  Rather than a gently sloped sandy beach to the water, it left a low spot parallel to the shore, where a slimy scummy pond has been created.  At two spots, a sand bridge has been made, with gaps to let the water drain.  At one end, a fellow was digging a trench to the water, allowing the pond to drain.  Well, actually, since the pond is in sand, the water should drain if it’s above the normal level of water at the shore.  Since it hasn’t drained through the sand, it will be futile to try to drain it with a trench.  Too bad.  The only way is to move the sand back to slope the beach properly – either by machine (probably not feasible) or by the action of wind & waves (which may take a year or two).

Nonetheless, there was an eager class of surfing students waiting to take to the waves.

Row of surfing students wait to hit the waves!

We made our way to the shore by way of one of the sand land bridges.  The waves really were strong, frothy, and consistent.  I haven’t surfed (yet), but I can only imagine that it was ideal for surfing.

There are lots of umbrellas along the shore with folding chairs under them.  Hmm, we thought we might sit down and enjoy the shore for a spell.  However, we noticed that the umbrellas have numbers on them – and we saw waiters wandering between them.  They are an extension of the bars on the other side of the pond – you are expected to buy drinks and/or food while you sit there.  Oh, well.

We wandered down the shore then back across another sand bridge and back to the streets.  We perused a couple of restaurants before deciding to go to Chocobanana – where apparently the namesake dessert is both nutritious and delicious!  Behind the counter, they had a hilarious sign – check it out – complaint department, take a number!  Ha ha!

Curses, that lady blocked the sign – but here it is, Chocobanana

Wall behind the counter

Ha ha, I need one of these to put beside my desk!

The Chocobanana restaurant did up a great mushroom & cheese hamburger for us.  Includes salad & fries, but the salad was in the hamburger.  That’s OK, it was great, as I said.

Then I ordered the namesake Chocobanana.  There are different types, I got the one with coconut on the outside.  Sure enough, it was a banana (previously frozen?) with a thin chocolate coating, and covered in flakes of coconut.  Well, it was good, but not quite out-of-this world or anything.

And there I am with the namesake Chocobanana – coconut flake outside.  Not bad!

We wandered the streets of Sayulita for an hour, then back onto the bus.

Yes, a big surfing town – three surf shops side-by-side and one across the street.

All too soon it was time to get back on a bus.  Amazingly, as we got to the place where we got off the bus into Sayulita, a bus arrived signed for Bucerias.  We got on and grabbed the choice seats.

It was a nice ride back, especially since I didn’t have to stand the whole way!  The bus never did fill up, probably less than a dozen people on it, so we were able to relax and not scrunch together.

The bus was moving quite quickly, so I wasn’t able to snap any great pictures, so sad.  Just one of this small church at a village along the route.

We got back to Bucerias in about 30 minutes.  We crossed the highway and visited the butcher shop, picked up some sausage for dinner tonight.

That’s a bit of a story too.  When Dayna and I visited the Mega on Friday the 31st, we picked up chicken with the idea of storing it to have tonight.  Unfortunately, by the time Saturday afternoon rolled around, Dayna and Helen were searching for the cause of the terrible smell in the fridge – it was our chicken!  Not gonna eat that, froze it and now wondering how to dispose of it – the garbage pickup doesn’t seem to be on a regular schedule around here, so can’t necessarily put it out just before they pick up!  And for tonight, over to plan B – go to the butcher shop and pick up something fresh & interesting.

Fresh & interesting it was.  Bratwurst, yum, made for a nice supper.  And a neighbour lady made “Ohio Buckeyes” and gave us some for supper.  They were grrrreat!  [ I think she prepared them in honour of the upcoming Sugar Bowl football game, where the Ohio State Buckeyes will meet the Arkansas Razorbacks tomorrow night ]

Before dinner, Dayna and I went for a walk down to the Biblio de Gringo bookstore and cafe – yes, that’s the name – specializing in used books in English.  I’ve seen several other bookstores and magazine stands, but everything is in Spanish!  [ go figure ]  Anyway, at the Gringo Bookstore, they sell used books at 1/2 of the cover price, and buy back at 1/4 of the cover price.  Barrie & Helen tell us that they keep track of each person’s credit on a recipe card – and maintain the credit until next year.  So, at the end of your visit, you take down all your books, turn them in for credit, and when you arrive next year, you go down and use that credit to get some books out to read.

Gringo’s bookstore and cafe!

Well, I need a book because I’ve plowed through all the magazines I brought with me – hard to believe, but I did – too bad I didn’t bring more (I have several feet of magazines at home to deal with).  Dayna read the two novels she brought, so purchased two more.

There is a relatively limited selection of non-fiction, and I didn’t see any fiction that appealed to me.  I purchased a hardcover book, very old but interesting – Stick and Rudder / an Explanation of the Art of Flying by Wolfgang Langewiesche.  Some day, I would like to have my private pilot license.  I read part of it and it seems to be a really good practical description of how instinct works against you during flying.  Based on my limited experience, flying with Ryan Fisher, and Flight Simulator, the first chapter already has great advice.

After supper, Dayna and I wandered down to see if a sports bar might have the Canada-USA World Juniors semifinal game on.  Well, Yoyo Mo’s had it on, we arrived with less than 2 minutes left in the game, and couldn’t find a seat, so we just stood and watched the game played out.  Canada won 4 to 1, and on to the finals against Russia!  It seemed as though the whole bar was full of Canadians, there was a lot of yelling and cheering.

We didn’t bother to sit down.  Instead we went across the street to Joe Crow’s to see what was happening there.  Not like we couldn’t look across and see that nothing was happening!  Anyway, we stopped for a couple of drinks, found out it was karaoke night, heard the other folks practicing, saw that no Long John Baldry songs were in the book, and finished up.

We got home, Dayna read and I blogged.  And blogged.  And blogged.

Bucerias market redux, slack time – 2 January

Today was a pretty lazy day.  We slept in, got up late, and went to the market for vegetables.

Dayna peruses the watermelons near the start of the Bucerias Market

We had a late lunch at Sweet Thing, which was great!  The owners of Sweet Thing are originally from Plum Coolee, MB, for what that is worth.

The day was warm, I was not ambitious, so a nice siesta fit into the afternoon, then a bit of sitting by the pool.  Like I said – slack time!

We’re having a late supper, a nice salad with tuna.  In keeping with the mood of the day, I was expecting to do nothing after supper, but we went downtown to a dessert spot with a great view of Bucerias – A Bar Above.  It’s on the fourth floor of a building right beside Yoyo Mo’s.  We ventured up the long, winding stairs to the third floor, but were greeted by a locked iron door, so sad.  No chocolate souffle for me tonight, too bad.  We wandered around the town square and back to the condo.

Tomorrow we are going to jump on the bus and go to Sayulita, apparently a big surfing destination of the area.  We’ll see what we can see!

Au revoir Eric! – 1 January

Today is Eric’s day to fly home.  Eric set up the taxi yesterday when Dave had arranged his.  Eric’s flight was at 12h40, he wanted to leave the condo at 10h00, so he would have lots of time.  Wise, that’s the way I like to do it too – spend extra time in the airport instead of risking a delay messing you up.

Just before accompanying our “little boy” (ha ha) to the airport

Dayna wanted she and I to go with him, so we accompanied our little boy (23 yrs old remember!) the airport.  We had figured it would be a zoo, with all kinds of flights coming and going today.  However, it wasn’t all that bad.  There was a lineup of maybe 200 people for a Canjet flight to Vancouver, but Eric’s Westjet flight to Winnipeg was only about 100 people.  After about five minutes in line, Eric quietly said to me, “You know, you don’t have to stay.”

Well, that’s equivalent to asking us to leave, so realizing that he can readily deal with things from there, we did leave.  We took the walkway over the highway (wish we had one of those over the perimeter between the Harte Trail and the Headingley Grand Trunk Trail) and caught the northbound bus back to Bucerias.  12 pesos each, what a deal.

At one stop, several folks got on the bus, then an old fellow started talking to the driver from just outside the door.  Of course the exchange was all in Spanish, so I don’t know what they were talking about, but I could have sworn that the fellow was gunning for a free ride.  He didn’t seem to want to let us pull out until he got what he wanted, whatever it was.  He also seemed to be calling more potential riders in and directing them onto the bus.  At one point, he was waving some kind of a pulley in the doorway, looked like a clothes hanger pulley.  It was almost like he was trying to barter with the driver to get a ride!  Well, this went on for about five minutes, and each time that the bus driver revved the engine and I felt the clutch ease out and the bus pull forward, the driver backed off and stopped again.  The fellow would talk a bit more, and a couple more people would get onto the bus.  Dayna was thinking that maybe he was threatening to lay down in front of the bus or some such thing to impede its progress, but my impression was that he wanted a free ride.

Finally, I heard the driver ask, although again my Spanish was poor, something like, “So you want five pesos?”  And then toss a coin out the door to the fellow and drive away.

Extortion on the highway!  For five pesos!  Wait a minute, remember that it’s 11 or 12 to the dollar, so not a big deal.

So for you telecom folks out there (any Norscan guys listening?), when you see an open cabinet on a street corner, what do you think?  This is 1/2 block from the condo where we are staying.  It appears to be fully punched down, and live!

Open patch cabinet on the corner?  Free telephone for anyone who can hook up to it!

Once back, we had a light lunch and flopped for a bit – me to do my E-mail and blogs, Dayna had a walk and a siesta – and then went down to the beach for few “laps” in the ocean and catch some late afternoon sun.

My “laps” were difficult – I’m not used to swimming in such salty water!  I had trouble keeping the goggles from leaking.  And those silly rented jet-skis, before and after my swim I could see them going back and forth within about 60 ft of the shore, within the area where I and others were swimming!  Bozos.  I had to keep an eye out for them, don’t need to get whacked by a jet-ski.

Dayna relaxes in the sun!

Dean dripping after coming in from a swim in the ocean

There were a lot more people on the beach than there have been, both Mexican folks and vacationers (easy to tell because of their pale complexion – oops just like me).  This makes sense, as we are aware that a lot of flights come in to Puerto Vallarta on Saturday.

There was a Mexican family just down the beach from us, they appeared to have brought a bucket full of pea gravel and spread it where they sat.  I wonder why, since the sand is so silky soft and warm?  They had a bunch of coconuts and tequila bottles.  They appeared to be breaking open the coconuts, eating some of the meat, then filling them with tequila, and drinking up!  Wow what a system they had!

Eating coconut meat and drinking tequila out of the shell – a family outing for all ages?

A little further, a fellow came along with a wheelbarrow full of coconuts and other things.  I saw him whacking coconuts in two, carving the meat out of them, putting the meat in a baggie, putting in other things, and selling them to folks on the beach.  I wondered what exactly he was doing, but then again, I didn’t want to ask, because with my gullible nature, I’d end up buying it, even if I didn’t want it!

Whacking a coconut with a machete

Delivering the product, whatever it is, to a customer

We had a quiet supper without any of the kids, just the four of us.  Basso – yes, fish – and rice, very nice.

We went for a walk afterward.  The town is very quiet tonight.

Oops, we got back and that bad two blocks away is at it again.  They are going crazy – going to be another one of those nights, I guess.  Oh well, it sounds like they are having a good time, anyway.

Tomorrow being Sunday, the market will be open and we’ll be going down in the morning.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot – 31 December

Sigh, New Year’s Eve here in Bucerias.  Quieter than we all expected, actually.  We walked down to the town square at about 22h30.  There were more people out and about than other nights, but not that many.  A few of the bars and restaurants had music coming from them, but only a few had live bands.  The streets and houses themselves were very quiet.  Certainly quieter than on Thursday night, when that bar or whatever a block away was pounding out the tunes until 03h30!

Joe Crow’s and Yoyo Mo’s (two blocks past square) were happening places with live bands.  Well, that corner has four different open-air bars, each with its own live band.  We should have stopped at Joe Crow’s for a drink – the music actually sounded pretty good.

But oy, the firecrackers and cherry bombs!  The kids around here are devilish!  And with the little safety regulation, there are folks lighting little fireworks and tossing them about.  On the corner between Yoyo Mo’s and The Twisted Rose and La Pachanga, there were two young guys, buying fireworks from a twelve year old, lighting them, and tossing them straight up.  They laughed hysterically when the fireworks went off, spraying sparks everywhere, including on nearby cars (yikes).  With all the jumble of overhead wires at that corner, they were hitting the wires once in a while, and the fireworks would go unexpected directions, and of course more hysterics.  The young men were accompanied by several young ladies and one older fellow (their father?  I doubt it, but wonder at what his role in all this was) who were also giggling incessantly, then they all went back into Yoyo Mo’s, presumably for more beer!

Down on the beach, restaurants were setting up their tables for an influx of folks around midnight, to see the fireworks across the water.  We wandered back to the condo to spin out an hour, then down to the beach with our lawn chairs to see the festivities.

There was a nearby resort which had about fifty people out on the beach with sparklers, making patterns and swirls in the dark.

At midnight, there was an explosion of colour out to our far right (La Cruz) and to our far left (Puerto Vallarta) with huge bursts of fireworks that went on and on and on.  On the La Cruz side, it went for about ten minutes or so, with occasional colourful bursts every two to five minutes after that.  Over in Puerto Vallarta, the fireworks on the shore went on for at least twenty minutes nonstop, then more started downtown.  There were smaller displays at some of the resorts along the water; then there was also a few back a few blocks and to our left.  Overall, the fireworks must have lasted about a half an hour.

There were about a half dozen kids behind us, along the grass line, who started shooting “whizzers” over our heads into the water – Dayna and Barrie didn’t quite react as strongly as Helen and Dean – who cowered in their chairs, hoping that they didn’t get hit with errant sparks!  [ Eric, ever the cool one, sat on the end, snickering ]

Then the most interesting thing happened – something none of us had ever seen.  We saw what looked like a kite on fire drift up from somewhere down the beach to our right, and drift on the wind out over the ocean.  Then, all of the sudden, there was a second one.  We realized that from the group just to our right, they were launching them.  They were actually little hot air balloons, with a small candle or burner or something like that generating flame in the bottom.  The balloon itself is either a cotton material or something else translucent, so you can see the flame inside the balloon.  The entire thing looks like a kernel of corn, and it’s about the size of a large man’s torso.  They carefully light the flame, take it to the shore, hold it up skyward, and let it go.  Often it drifts back and forth as it rises up, then floats out to sea on the prevailing wind.

Soon we spotted more floating out from La Cruz to our far right.  Eventually there were dozens, all drifting out to the ocean, quite beautiful, really.

Of course, me being who I am (pathological “thing” about fire – don’t get me wrong, I was into burning garbage in my youth, and know how quickly it can get out of control), made a crack about it being a way to get back at your neighbours – hoping it lands on their thatched palapas roof and not yours!   But it really was nice.

Eric wandered off, but on his way back to the condo, he cut through at the resort where they were launching the balloons, and he saw one that went up and got hung up in a tree.  Apparently, nobody worried about it, it just burned itself out after ten minutes or so, and then they lowered it down, reloaded the candle or whatever was inside, lit it and let it off out onto the ocean.

We called it a night fairly early.  On our way back to the condo, there were a couple of kids along the street, tossing fireworks onto the road and the sidewalk, scaring the daylights out of us.  And their dad encouraging them!  Oh well, as I’ve said, it looks like here in Mexico, anything not explicitly regulated is openly allowed, and there are no regulations!

As I said, it was pretty quiet.  But, very interesting too.

And not a single refrain of “Auld Lang Syne” was heard – in spite of the many, many Canadians and Americans around here.  Hmm.  No doubt though, it is the new year now!

Here’s to a healthy, happy and prosperous 2011 for all of us.  Salut!

Adiós los Cochranes de Virden – 31 December

So that party went on last night until about 03h30.  It didn’t keep any of us awake, fortunately – my CPAP machine makes enough noise to mask it; Eric sleeps like a log no matter what; and everyone else was insulated enough from it that they were able to drift away.

So today is the day that we knew would come – we are losing half of our group today, as Dave, Jennifer, Drew, Matt and Emily fly away back to Manitoba (by way of Toronto).  I’m sure they will appreciate sleeping in their own beds, but then again the sun & sand made it nice to sleep here on the beach!

It turns out that Dave won a hard-fought card game battle of 31 last night, triumphing over Jennifer.  Just to rub it in, he went out this morning and had a little bracelet made saying “31 Champ”.  Much to Jennifer’s chagrin.  Suffice to say that if she had won it, things would be different.  Oh well, sounds like she will get her chance.  Dave says the bracelet will be up for grabs next Christmas when they do the 31 tournament again.  The trash talking started this morning already – Emily declared that she would be the one to win it next year!  And so it goes…

Dave sports the Cochrane 31 Tournament Trophy Bracelet!

Dave & Eric went down to the taxi stand to arrange their respective rides to the airport today and tomorrow.  We had an early lunch, then it was time to say our goodbyes.  Load up the van, and they were off…

Dayna and I headed back to the Mega store to pick up a few things, and because she hadn’t really had a chance to browse the other times we were there (all 10 of us were there, on a mission, the other times).

Well, Mega was a complete zoo!  Something like five times the number of people there today.  Dayna couldn’t get the salmon that she wanted, and the lineup for the chicken was practically the length of the store!  She settled for an alternate menu (she can do that, you know dietitians) and got the shopping done.  Everything seems very festive here today, way more festive than Christmas Eve.  Then again, the religious aspect of Christmas seemed to be more prevalent here, nice – they think of Christmas like we say we do, and leave the partying to New Year’s Eve.

The bus was very full too, especially going out from Bucerias to the Mega.  We were standing in the aisle because there were no open seats, and an older fellow standing behind me broke out into a spirited song.  He was passionate and enthusiastic, and loud too.  Most of the passengers seemed to take no notice, or maybe this is an everyday thing here in Bucerias???

On the way back, what again struck me was the overt religious imagery at the front of the bus.  There was an image of the Virgin Mary painted onto the glass shield behind the driver, a wooden cross attached to the centre divider bar of the windshield, and a rosary hanging from the cross.  For a Protestant boy like me, there’s a bit more imagery than I’m used to, but I love it.  I like to think that people have some morals, ethics and faith in this all-too-cold and all-too-secular world.

Painted Virgin Mary on glass on left, cross mounted on divider in centre with rosary hanging off of the cross

When we got back, the rest of the group went down to the beach to get some sun, while I set up near the pool (where the wireless signal is the strongest and the most reliable) to do my video editing (such as it is) and finish yesterday’s blog.  It seemed to take forever!

Eric had decided not to go parasailing this time.  Oh well, something to take on the next time!

Eric almost forgot to take beer with him to the beach.  I reminded him on the way out, and he found that there were very few left.  Being the civic minded guy that I am, I volunteered to get some more.  We can’t run out of beer on New Year’s Eve, can we?

While at Mary Paz’s convenience store, a fellow was headed out with 2 boxes of beer on a little cart.  As he navigated the step, the top box fell off with a crash – and there was beer and glass everywhere.  He was pretty distraught, can you blame him?  I was very careful with our box of beer.  Not that I’m big on beer, I just don’t want to see the money washed down the sewer…

So tonight it’s barbequed steak for supper.  I’m getting hungry just typing it.

Splashdown in the Pacific! – 30 December

This morning, the men were lazy and hung out at the condo, while the ladies went to La Palapa Boutique (ladies’ clothing 100% cotton tailored to fit) and Cotton House (where you can see the actual looms upon which they make place mats, napkins, table cloths, and the like).

The loom they actually use at the Cotton House

Eric spotted four iguanas trying to stay in the heat, up on the wall behind the palapas.  It caused a bit of interest.

Looking down from palapas onto iguanas on fence

It was a cool start to the day – cloudy, wow that’s a first for us here, anyway.  Rather chilly, I’ll say – no extreme sun to warm the skin.  It was actually kind of nippy up on the palapas. 

Lunch was great as usual, soft chicken tacos.

Then in the afternoon, we walked down to the beach in front of the Nuevo Vallarta resorts, where they run parasailing, banana boat rides, and rent out jet-skis.  The clouds cleared for a bit and it warmed up nicely as we went out to do the activities.

Some of the kids wanted to go up parasailing, and the operators advised that children as young as seven could go.  Twelve year old Matt went up parasailing first, it went without a hitch, and he gave it a thumbs up.  A few local young ladies went up, then nine year old Emily went up and also had a good time.

Matt takes off

Matt glides in for a landing
Emily lifts off

Emily’s soft landing

They were directed to pull the harness sides in response to whistle signals from the ground, and both glided down slowly in the onshore breeze; the guys running the operation caught them and slowly, gently lowered them to the sand.  How nice!  …but apparently that wasn’t how mine was going to be…

Other folks got a long winded careful explanation of how the harness works, how to sit in it, how to land.  Me, I got a short, “sit here, hold on here while lifting off, pull the bottom forward as you get up, and when I whistle, pull down here.”  On with the life jacket and the harness.  They said I would be running to take off, but they suddenly told me to walk – as I questioned their instructions, they gave me a push and the rope gave me a tug, and I was rolling!  I gave a whoop as I lifted off.  Well, I got up easily enough, swinging slowly from side to side, hanging on to the straps, even though they had told me I wouldn’t have to hang on (refer to “afraid of heights”).  I tried not to think of how high I was, just looking out at the boats and laughing at moving through the air.  I’m flying!

Dean struggles to get airborne.  Like the spruce goose?!?

It was a blast!  Just like sitting in an old style playground swing.  Dayna tells me that I never got as high as either one of the kids, probably because I am over double either one’s weight, but it was plenty high for me!  [ I kind of have a pathological fear of heights – kind of! ]

Then the boat took a turn to the north and I felt that I was descending a bit.  Wait a second, descending a lot!  Yikes, we were a couple of kilometres out in the water, and here I am, heading down!  At the last second, I pulled up my legs so I wouldn’t drag, but the boat operator hit the gas and I started to lift again.  I figure I may have been 5 ft off the water by that time, yikes.

Back on the shore, Dayna, Dave and company were recording my adventure on our little Vado HD video recorders and cameras.  They were quite concerned about my dip to the surface.

Apparently, the wind had shifted on them as I took off, and that caused the operator trouble in keeping me aloft.

Well, the rest of the flight went well – as we went back to the shore, I could see and realize how high up I was.  It made me nervous, but I tried not to think about it.

As the boat rounded to go along the shore, I heard the whistle that signalled that I was to pull down on the right harness strap, which I did.  Hmm, not moving onto the shore.  There’s someone down there frantically waving a red flag, wonder what that means?  Oh well, I’m doing what I’m supposed to do.  Then I hear someone yell, “Pull harder, all the way!”  Of course, I complied, pulling down on the right strap with all my might.  No change!  As I slowly descended into the ocean, I’m thinking, “Hmm, this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.”  I hit the water slowly, gently, no problem.  It was smoother than jumping into a pool off the diving board.  I was laughing as I hit, my mouth was open and got seawater in my mouth and eyes – yuck.

So now I’m in the water with a rope in front, a parachute behind, a life jacket and a harness to the chute.  Fortunately I had taken note of the way that I was harnessed to the chute, so I unhooked myself.  Well, one side was easy, but then my weight was on the other side and it was a bit of a struggle.  It took a bit, but relatively quickly I was free.  Now Dayna was concerned because my feet came up as I rolled out free of the chute and its lines.  The Mexican staff were quite concerned too, apparently.  Eric says that when the mild-mannered laid-back Mexicans get excited, then you should start to worry.  Anyway, the boat operator circled back.  He was surprised that I was free and told me to swim back to shore, which I did.  It is difficult to swim in a life jacket and harness!  [ fortunately I swim quite a bit so it was a challenge but OK ]


The guys on shore were quite relieved to see me stagger onto the beach, I was busy telling them that I was fine.  Then the head honcho reminded me that I hadn’t paid yet.  No deal on that ride, although they didn’t charge me extra for the excitement and for the swim, either!

Swimming for shore!

Lumbering through the waves

Staggering out

I was soaked when I didn’t plan to be (kind of expected to land on the shore like everyone else), so I only hung around for a bit, then headed back to the condo.  Dave and Drew were headed out for a jet-ski ride as I was leaving.

Just before supper, we got a couple of final group photos – all of us.  Tomorrow Dave & Jennifer & family are heading back to the Great White North…

“The” group photo – (L to R) Dean, Eric, Dayna, David, Emily, Jennifer, Matt, Helen, Drew, Barrie

Supper tonight was at Claudio’s, a very nice mostly open-air Mexican restaurant on the beach.  We arrived right at sunset, and got a few nice pictures as the sun went down.

Eric warned me that real marguritas would have 2 or 3 ounces of tequila, but I ordered a couple anyway.  Yep, they have lots of tequila in them.  I was mostly walking vertically on the way back – mostly.

Later, here I am shivering up on the palapas, actually quite cool up here tonight.  The 31 card tournament just ended downstairs.  There’s a very loud live band playing about 2 blocks away, they’ve been going on and off for about two hours.  I’m thinking that there is a wedding reception or something going on over there.  I wonder if they are ever going to let us get some sleep?

It’s probably time to turn in, or at least try to.