Friday, September 26, 2014

Tis Hurricane Season - Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Before I begin with our tales of life over the last few weeks, I want to take a moment and express my sorrow for our fellow comrades in Cabo San Lucas and southern Baja Sur Region of Mexico. The devastation and anguish they are enduring as a result of Hurricane Odile is gut wrenching!

Puerto Vallarta only experienced more beach erosion.  A total of 16 lost their lives as a result of the storm with 5 of them here in PV due to crashing waves sweeping them away. Any life lost is too many.  Sad.

We continue to play the cat and mouse game with our previous landlord and his "lawyer". But, as of yesterday morning, we and our lawyer, Felipe Gomez, finally said ENOUGH!!!  We are filing legal papers with the city government. This is a very serious step!  Once these papers are filed, if they do not pay within a very short period of time (now including our lawyer's fee), we can enter the apartment building and, with the help of the local police, actually take TV's and appliances out of the apartments to compensate us for our money that he took. We also have the right to sell those items. Should be interesting. 

Friends from WA came to PV for vacation and we got together for another wonderful breakfast at La Palapa on the beach. Always, great to see friends!  And, even though it was when Odile was creating havoc in Baja Sur, the weather here was much better than anticipated, so they could enjoy.

Lisa, Me, Linnea, & Bruce

September 16 is Mexico's Independence Day. This year there was a 4 day holiday. The best was on Monday night the 15th with everyone gathering in the City Square to enjoy the festivities on stage and then at 11pm, the Mayor of PV came out on the City Hall balcony to give the El Grito cry. Viva Mexico!!

The crowds everywhere!

Band Stand in front of City Hall & in the middle of the Zocala (city square).

The Mayor on his balcony.

El Grito represents the sermon preached by Padre Hidalgo, which persuaded the Mexicans to rise up and begin the 11 year battle for independence from Spain. And, then the incredible fireworks began right over our heads!!  We felt we could just reach out and touch them. Surrounded by droves of locals, we estimated about 10,000, we cheered and had comradery with our neighbors. My chest felt tight with emotion just as it does for our 4th of July. Independence is to be honored and celebrated with pride no matter where or who you are. 

September is definitely the quietest month in many respects. Many, many of the restaurants and shops are closed. They use this time to take vacations and to renovate and spruce up their establishments. So there's definitely a different laid back vibe around here with lots of construction noise.

It's also the wettest month somewhat due to hurricanes. This year, so far, has been the 3rd most active season in history. 

Again, because of the mountains and mouth of the bay, we tend to only get brushed by them. They'd have to take a sharp right hand turn to slam us, which is rare. The last to really hit here was in October, 2002, when Hurricane Kenna, a category 5, hit 100 miles north of PV, which is still outside the Bay. There was quite a bit of damage but nothing like what just happened to Cabo with a true direct hit. 

We continue to meet up with friends for dinner and/or drinks a couple of times a week. Since most of the restaurants that we frequent are closed the month of September, we've been enjoying trying some of the ones we just never seem to get to.  What wonderful choices this town has!!

Football is in full swing, so it depends on Mike's mood and where he'd like to watch the games as for our schedule. Since Nacho Daddy's is closed until October, we have taken to watching the games at different venues - Los Muertos Brewing or Thirsty Cougar.

Facebook friends, Tessa and Jim Armstead, who I've been communicating with for a year and fellow Washingtonians, finally arrived in PV to begin their new life as expats here.  On Tuesday, Tessa's birthday, we finally got to meet face to face!!  It was absolutely awesome.  But, what's really funny, is that Mike remembered meeting him back in 1999 when Jim was his friend's timeshare representative here in PV while staying at Villa del Palmar.  The world is a very small place, for sure.

Jim, Tessa, & Me.

Last week, I won a free surprise tour to be given by Superior Tours. I never win anything, so I was delighted. Even more so because it was as a result of many of my facebook friends "liking" my post. Also, because Mike and I use Superior for most of our travels. They have fabulous local tours, made all of our U.S. Airline reservations at a lower price than I could find on the web, and we had just booked our independent Copper Canyon tour with them. 

So I showed up with 2 other winners and with 4 guides, we set off for the day by van to critique a new tour they are wanting to offer to the public. We were beta testers! 

The surprise destination was El Tuito, a wonderful old (1500's) totally Mexican town about 1 hours drive due south.  Along the way, we had several stops. The first being a photo op at the Kliff restaurant turn out where I learned that the Bay is approximately 1,700 meters (5,577 ft) deep !!

Our second stop was actually a "baƱo" stop but the benefit was that it was at a Canopy Indio.  The location was right on a beautiful river with huge boulders and rushing waters.  Too bad the 10 line zip line wasn't part of the tour!

Our guide, Carlos.

Guide, Thalia, out on the Island Rock.

Thalia working her way back precariously!

We were then off to an outcropping of rocks in a field with petroglyphs on them.  Not much is actually known about them so part of the exercise was to take pictures of them and have them analyzed by experts at one of the Universities.  Unfortunately for me, there were tons of mosquitos also and by the time we left, I was covered in bites despite my efforts to cover my body in Off!  A battle that I fought valiantly all day but lost. 

The 4th stop on our way was at a road side bakery where they make the most scrumptious bread stuffed with all sorts of fillings.  I couldn't resist most of them so for 7 6" stuffed breads, I paid a total of 35 pesos ($2.60US).  Oh gawd, they are good!!

Please read carefully. 

And, then on to El Tuito!!  A wonderful walking tour of the cultural center in the town square with beautiful murals painted in the staircase.  And, I got to go out onto the Mayor's balcony because I asked.


Lunch at Mario's, an old authentic hacienda restaurant right on the square with an authentic Mexican lunch that was delicious!!  While having lunch though, we heard a commotion going on out on the square, so a couple of us went out to see what it was all about.  Didn't quite get a clear understanding of why but there was a cowboy on a horse holding onto a small calf that people would get on a ride. But while on it, people would throw flour or white powder on the rider.  Poor calf didn't seem to happy at all!!

After lunch a walk over to the church.  Not a lot is known about this church either but the original bronze bell showed 1890.

A quick stop at a family that makes cheeses before heading back towards PV.

On the way back, we made a stop at a Ranchero, which is a roadside restaurant.  Only the place happened to be owned by the landlady of one of us that won the tour.  We were scoping it out as a possible place for the tour to stop.  It's actually down on the river with a gorgeous setting.  Again, the mosquitos ate me alive because it's in a jungle setting and it was raining.

The final stop was at a family owned tequila factory.  So, of course, we had to go through the "tour" and taste all the tequila.  I had one sip of everything but gave the rest away to my compadres.  Just too early for me to get that buzzed. LOL

All in all, a GREAT day!  Thank You, Superior Tours for the honor of being your tester.  I highly recommend them to anyone coming to town!!

We made the final decision to purchase Medivac coverage.  This is not insurance but you buy a membership for an annual fee to have total coverage, no deductible, no forms, to pay for transportation of any type to medical facilities that give you the care you need.  It could just be an ambulance ride to another hospital or it could be a helicopter evacuation to wherever you need to go or it could be a plane ride back to your home country where you need to receive treatment.  Annual Family Plan membership is $390.  We chose MASA, the oldest worldwide medivac company in the world.  I encourage anyone needing health insurance choices to contact Mike Altman here in PV.

But what we're most excited about is our upcoming vacation to the Copper Canyon. We leave by bus this coming Sunday night, the 28th and return October 5th. That will be a story all by itself!!  The Copper Canyon is 4 times larger than the Grand Canyon and by far it's canyons are deeper.  To get there, we are taking the Chepe train up to the summit of Posada Barrancas with a few stops along the way.  Stay tuned!!

So enjoy your Fall no matter where you are in the northern hemisphere and spring for those in the southern hemisphere.  And so our journey continues......