Friday, March 14, 2008

Puerto Vallarta

Sorry for the delay; this blogging is hard work. We've finished our journey now, but I still want to tell the rest of the story so I have an update today and then probably two more posts to finish it up.

6 - 9 March

Our bus from Zihua to Puerto Vallarta was late. We got to Vallarta around 11:30 am and called and talked to Catherine. She told us to catch a bus back to the center of town. We had passed right by their neighborhood but we didn't know where to get off. The bus station is 4 km on the other side of town and a taxi is $10. We found the bus and lugged our suitcases on. We were the only ones on the bus and things seemed to be going well at first. The bus was following the reverse of the path we had come out on. Then it turned off onto a dirt road and began a crazy path through colonias. It picked up a lot of school kids and soon filled up. It ended up taking an hour-and-a-half to go 4 km. We didn't really mind the long trip but we felt bad that Judy was waiting for us.

Once we met up with Judy she helped us find a hotel in her neighborhood. Hotel Iris, $25. We left our stuff there and then went to Catherine and Judy's apartment. It's a great little place. Catherine has a sweet little chihuahua named Piedra. She makes and sells fleece chihuahua sweaters because apparently the little buggers are always cold. The five of us (including Piedra), went to a little taco stand around the corner and had some yummy fried fish and shrimp tacos which Judy was kind enough to buy for us.

Catherine went home after that but Judy played tour guide for us. She showed us the island in the middle of the river which you get to by crossing a little suspension bridge. There are a ton of tourist shops there. Stuff is much more expensive than further south. Then she took us to the Malecon, which is a seawall walk that goes for about a kilometer in front of the city. We stopped for ice cream and then walked on some more. When we spotted a sign for $1 beers we of course had to make a pit stop. We got to the second floor bar and found out they also had $1 margaritas. I figured it would be a little plastic cup, but it was a good-sized margarita glass and not bad.

Puerto Vallarta Zoo
We continued our walk along the Malecon and saw some nice bronze sculptures and also sand sculptures. Then we went back to our hotel and got ready to go out to the Santa Barbara Theater where Judy and Catherine work. Judy got us free tickets to the show, which was a tribute to Bob Fosse. On the way there we stopped at a taco stand for some of the best food we've had. It's incredible the food you can buy off the street in Mexico.

The place was sold out but Judy had gotten us two chairs but no table. It was comfortable enough though. There was no set for this show and no costume changes, just the dancers interpreting various Bob Fosse numbers. The Director and choreographer, both Mexican, were also in the show. The rest of the dancers seemed to be Gringos. The crowd, all older than us, were familiar with the tunes and I could see them singing along and really getting into it. We enjoyed ourselves. After the show we went upstairs to the bar and had a few beers. We chatted a little with the owner of the theater and some of the other staff. We didn't get back to our hotel until 11:30.

We got to sleep and were happily dozing until about 1:30 in the morning when someone opened our locked door and said "What are you guys doing here?" in accented English. It was a couple, an older man with a young woman. Alaine had woken up while he was unlocking the door, and had been yelling at them to go away, but I was so fast asleep that I woke up at the moment they were standing in the doorway. We responded that this was our room and he said no it was his. Finally he left. We were so freaked out we didn't know what to do. I locked the door again and we finally got back to sleep with no more disturbances. In the morning we talked to the night watchman about it and he said that the guy had gone with the key and not paid for another night or something. They assured us that all the keys were now in their possession so we would not be disturbed again.

Punta Mita: Alaine, Catherine holding Piedra, Noble, Judy
We had plans to go whale-watching with Judy and Catherine, and her little dog too. They knew how to get the bus to Punta de Mita, so we let them be the tour guides again. We got there around 11:15 and some guys were already at the bus stop asking about doing a tour. They wanted $120 for the trip. We said we'd like to wait and see if we could get more people to go so we could reduce the cost. While we waited we had some beers at a beach-side restaurant. Catherine got some chips to feed to Piedra. After about an hour-and-a-half we found a family from Saskatchewan with two boys who wanted to go.

We went out and did see whales, although not as close as I would have liked, but it was a fun outing. We got back and had lunch at the restaurant and then went back to town around 6.

We changed out of our sandy clothes and went to a little pizza place we had scoped out the day before that had $1 beers on Saturdays and WiFi. I believe it was called Pizza Roma. We ended up staying there until closing.

Next morning we slept in and then got packed up and left our stuff downstairs while we headed over to see Judy and Catherine. We all went out to the fish taco place again and then they showed us a great store with nuts and dried fruits where we stocked up for the train trip.

They came back to our hotel with us where we sat in the lobby and drank beers we bought next door until it was time for us to go. They took us to the bus stop and made sure we got on a bus that would get us to the station in 30 minutes.

It seems to me that there are two Puerto Vallartas. Walking around the town center doesn't seem that much different from any other Mexican city and the people are wonderfully friendly, but when you get to the shore and see all the high-rises you get a different and, for us at least, unpleasant feeling. Condo billboards advertise "Life built around you", while in the town center it seems that life is built around a community.

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