This year we have booked for two months in friendly Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I plan to use the blog to share some reflections of our time here, and flavour them with a few images of this colourful and spicy town.
The first image is a teaser, it’s our balcony view – it was where we were headed, it was in our minds as we left the -25 degrees of Winnipeg.
But first we had to get here. We left home at 5:15 am to take West Jet to Edmonton; which was a real pain as there is a direct flight from Winnipeg to PV that takes less than four hours. But WJ was playing silly-whatsits when we booked last June, saying all the seats had already been sold. So we had to go via Edmonton, which is a two-hour flight from Winnipeg and with the wait for the PV flight means we got into PV at 4:30 PM rather than 11:30 am! The chatty chap sitting next to Susan (she always sits next to chatty chaps, or perhaps she just has an aura that makes chaps chatty) said he was only on our flight because he had slept in and missed the direct flight which he had booked a few weeks prior! GRRRRRRRRR Not Happy West Jet, I’m not happy!
We eventually arrived at PV airport, tired but pleased to be safely down on the ground again. When you arrive at 11:30 am there aren’t many other flights arriving. When you arrive at 4:30 pm, on the other hand, you are arriving with several plane loads of tourists. The arrivals hall was packed. We saw a huge line-up for the immigration/passport control officers. Oh joy, we thought (or something like that) this is going to take a while. But although looking chaotic the Mexicans do an amazing job of adjusting and miraculously extra lines opened up and we were soon stamped in by the friendly passport officer. She gave us a smile of welcome as she handed back our passports and tourist cards.
Now for the big hurdle we thought – finding our luggage and passing through customs control. Our flight was using baggage carousel six. All the bags were already unloaded and waiting for us to pick them up. Our three (yes three, we would have needed four but the plumber was unable to remove the kitchen sink) cases were all next to each other.
Then we saw the snaking line of families with cases waiting for customs clearance. The line went back to one end of the hall and through to other and back again. “Oh, now we are in for a wait we thought”. For some reason they like to put the cases through an X-ray machine before you see the customs agent. I can understand the X-ray process when you are entering the airport and about to have luggage loaded on a plane, but why upon arrival? Unfortunately, this means carting the bags, in the long line, to one of the officer’s stations, then loading them onto a conveyor belt to pass through the X-ray machine, and collecting them at the other side. Then carting them over to the customs official. Again, with credit, the airport authorities had decided there were too many arrivals and so had made the decision to dispense with the X-ray process. So quite soon we were handing our customs declaration to the officer. He asked us a few quick questions about food items and then said “Push the button”. There is a big button, which the head of the household – or at least the one who filled out the family form, has to push. I, being the form filler, pushed the button and waited. If the red light came on we would have to have our cases searched, if green, we were on our way. It was green, “on your way” he said.
Now the real hazard begins. For some reason, known only to the authorities and perhaps whoever greases palms (actually I don’t like the sound of greasy palms, I can imagine monkeys sliding off tall trees and getting hurt), the next hall, that all arriving passengers must pass through, is lined with men and women pretending you need their help to find accommodation or to get a cheap taxi to your destination. In fact they are registered time-share salespeople. Their real intent is to get you to sign up for a four-hour minimum tour of their newest and finest time-share location, in return for which they will save you $30 for a taxi. Actually if you are canny you can demand up to $200 each person for the inconvenience of looking at a time-share complex for ten minutes followed by three hours of the highest pressure sales tactics imaginable.
The best advice is just keep walking through the gauntlet, eyes fixed straight ahead and answer any questions with “No, gracias!” Being regulars we survived and passed through into the outside hall where hundreds of people were meeting the arrivals. It was with great joy that we saw Shirley’s smiling face of greeting. Our priest, Jack, and his wife had told us they would be meeting us at the airport and driving us to the condo. We were so pleased, particularly after the longer than necessary journey and early departure.
Then we realized we were warm! The air was not only warm, it was able to hold moisture; the smell and inhalation of tropical moisture started to lubricate our noses and our skin started to relax – and so did we.
Most mornings we like to get up early-ish and walk down to the Malecon. Our condo complex is located high above the town as can be seen from the balcony image. This means a 95 step descent to the next street and then a couple of blocks walk and we are at sea-level and standing on the Malecon. Malecon is basically a seawall walkway. PV has done a remarkable job in creating a very attractive sea-walk that stretches for a couple of miles along the bay. The Malecon has a dizzying array of restaurants, bars, shops and vendors that should satisfy most tastes.
We like to walk a mile or so, then find a beach-side restaurant and have coffee and toast. If you sit at the tables on the beach you can expect wandering vendors to quietly and inoffensively offer you their wares. A polite “No gracias” has most of them passing on. Once n a while you get a more aggressive salesperson. Last year one approached our son-in-law with a tray of costume jewellery. “You want to buy any of this junk?” “no thanks”. “Oh come on, take the lot?” “no thanks”. “OK I’ll pay you to take it off my hands” My son-in-law asked “How much”. “Oh no, it does’;t work that way, you have to tell me how much you want first”. Then he left chuckling away.
The chap above was selling hats this day. sometimes the pile of hats can be incredibly high, I guess it depends on how much they have to invest in product that day.
At the beginning of February they hold a charro festival and parade. Charro means horseman or horsewoman – not sure about horse-person – These are a special group and federally regulated. You read about them ion the link. They have very colourful costumes and beautiful horses. Many of the women ride side-saddle. They are very serious looking people and ride with great skill and dignity. This woman was riding along the Malecon on her way to the gathering place for the parade.
We also had a short time by and in the pool. Not too long or we would get iguana skin. Across from the balcony is what I refer to as the Iguana tree. However, last year someone corrected me and said “It is not an iguana tree, they don’t grow on trees”. Well, e-x-c-u-s-e- me! Every day we see iguanas resting or eating on this tree. It’s our tree for spotting iguanas – it is our iguana tree!
But early this week a very large iguana, probably six feet long, was running along the top of our hedge, eating the flowers and chasing away a small green iguana who had trespassed on his patch. Quite fun to watch – but I wouldn’t want to be the one being chased. Mrs Little Iguana “Why are you home so early dear?” Mr Little “that grumpy Iguana Bwana chased me off the wall again. I really don’t like it when he does that”. Mrs L, “Perhaps things aren’t so well at home, you need to make allowances”. Mr L, “Allowances my tail, I nearly had to sacrifice the last 4 inches and you know how long that takes me to grow again”. Mrs L, “Here have some petals”.
Next time, a few more exciting rides on the town buses.