Monday, December 15, 2008

48 Hours in Mexico

There are only so many times you can say no to someone inviting you to stay with them in Mexico, and we were at our limit. Yeah, it wasn't the perfect time to go. Yeah, we could only be there for 48 hours. But the promise of 80 degree weather and Pacifico's on the beach is hard to resist.

Michael and Ceacy picked us up at the Puerta Vallarta airport around 4 o'clock after a 3 hour and 40 min flight from SFO, and within the hour, we were sitting at a table on the sand eating fish tacos and discussing the merits of ordering another bucket of beer. The small town of Bucerias 20 minutes north of PV was just a pit stop on the way to La Cruz where the "fleet" was anchored at the point of Banderas Bay.

The fleet consisted of 50 or so sailboats inhabited by a motley crew of "cruisers" who either migrated to the area during the winter or had dispensed with the annual process altogether and decided to settle there year-round. The anchorage is connected by a network of radios all monitoring a hailing frequency that would periodically crackle to life with a call of "Ramble on Rose, Ramble on Rose, Gray Max" to which we on the Ramble on Rose, would reply "Gray Max, Ramble on Rose, up two." Both parties would then reconvene on a channel two above the hailing frequency and commence with essential communications concerning which bar we'd hit first and which music started when. One more shot of 30/30, the 100% agave tequila Michael favored, and we loaded into the dingy (a six foot inflatable Zodiac with a 5 hp engine) and puttered into the marina.

The new marina had been built within the past few years on landfill that used to be beachfront property for several homes and bars in La Cruz. It sounds like the process of forcing locals out of an area by developing right on top of them is somewhat common and is what happened with the huge Punta de Mita development between La Cruz and Sayulita. Neither the local nor the true cruisers (the ones without 100' power yachts) like the marina very much.

That night, we walked the streets of La Cruz as a gringo herd checking out a few nightspots for outdoor beverages and music culminating in a recurring orders of tacos from an open restaurant off the plaza. We made it all the way back to the boat before realizing that swells in the anchorage were going to be too much for Ann's seasickness prone head and stomach and were able to find a room in town for $40 or so (a bargain at 2am).

The next day, we all headed for the beach in Sayulita, a small town half an hour or so north. Sayulita has a reputation not only for a beautiful beach and nice surf break but for being a good mix of tourism and Mexican charm. The streets are flowing with unwashed surf-hippies napping inside their tapestry-shrouded VW buses or late 70's Chevy "Mystery Machine" vans but seems to actually function as a sleepy local town as well. Of course, there are more permanent changes going on as well like the development on "Gringo Hill" and the real estate offices on every corner, but so far, Sayulita remains a nice place, and I would hope to return with more friends.

100 pesos got us two chairs and an umbrella on the beach. I floundered around on a borrowed surfboard but never quite got the timing. A great day. Despite Michael having caught a bug, Ceacy showed us a few more local spots that night, introduced us to a few more local musicians who I regretted not having time to play with and promised I'd return, and we collapsed into bed.

Our final hours in Mexico were enough time (barely) for a bus ride from La Cruz down to Puerta Vallarta for a walk along the Malecon and the Rio Cuale as well as a brief foray into Viejo Vallarta on the side of the river the tourists didn't seem to visit. On previous trips, it was this area that really felt like a Mexican town where people lived and worked in contrast to the Senor Frogs and Carlos O'brien jello shot scene.

After an expensive snack on the beach watching a group of Americans bargaining (poorly) and thus being swarmed by the army of white-clad wandering beach merchants, we waited for someone to haphazardly step in front of the bus on a random street corner (must save money on "Bus Stop" signs) and hopped on for the journey back to La Cruz and to meet up with our ride to the airport.

Maybe it was only 48 hours in Mexico but at least our pictures make it look like it was a week.

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