Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Our New Home

On Christmas Day this year, we received an email from the property management company here in PV (as we locals call Puerto Vallarta). Apparently the owner of the condo that we were to rent was not taking care of the building, the other tenants were taking him to court, and so we were not going to be able to stay there. Hmmm, this was not a good Christmas present! Homeless in Mexico does not sound like a good thing! “Don’t worry about a thing, we will find you a place for the same price that you will like even better.” This is where faith comes in, we either trust that God will work out all of the puzzle pieces of our lives or we don’t. In this situation, both Bryce and I prayed about it, and decided to trust God to work things out.

When we got here yesterday, we met with the owner of the management company, Alex, who assured us that we would love the place that he had in mind to show us. He brought us up to Conchas Chinas, which is just south of town  a couple of miles. He brought us to a quiet little neighbourhood of different condo buildings built on a hillside looking over the bay. We climbed up three flights of stairs, which is not that easy for Bryce, but when he opened the door, we both gasped in delight at the beautiful sight. The entire condo is open, with the front room, dining room and kitchen opening out onto a huge balcony that goes across the entire front of the condo. The master bedroom has a huge sliding door that also opens to the patio. Both the master and the guest bedroom have king sized beds, there is a large soaker tub in the master bedroom, but here is the kicker. There is our own private pool on the balconey! We can paddle in the pool and look down on the bay, or at night enjoy the city lights. We just sat out there in the dark tonight and drank it all in. We are grateful to God and to Alex for making this happen for us. It turns out that this place is worth a lot more than we are paying, but because they had to cancel our original agreement, they gave us this great deal. We just have to figure out how to get it at this price again next year!

The view from our condo

Our pool - not quite big enough to swim laps, but a good way to cool off!

kitchen and dining room taken from the patio: look, no walls!

patio looking toward the front room and pool


Monday, 6 January 2014

Adios, Mazatlan, Hola, Puerto Vallarta

Sometimes, you just have to cut your losses! This did not turn out to be a very good hotel for us to stay at. We had been so excited to be in a hotel right on the ocean in a virtually private beach in one of the most beautiful places on earth. After two days of travelling, we were so looking forward to a good night’s sleep with the patio door open to the ocean breezes and the sound of crashing surf.

 Instead, what we got was loud, never ending music, music, music that went all day long from the pool area until they finally shut it down at 10:30 at night. Then, the staff had to clean up, which involved much shouting. When you have a pounding headache and a deep yearning for sleep after two days of driving, this does not go well! We ended up closing the patio door and turning on the air conditioning. By the morning, Bryce had turned into a popsicle after yet another night of not very much sleep, and by 5:00 am, we were both awake and even though the room payment was non-refundable, we decided to hit the road a day early, heading to Puerto Vallarta, where we would take our chances finding last minute accommodation.

Yes, they still have real cowboys in Mexico!

The wonderful surprise that awaited us was a wonderful drive back out through the coconut plantations as the sun come up. In many areas, the fog was still settling in the marshes full of birds, and it was a magical ending to our little “Stone Island” experience.

Morning Mists
 The toll highway continued south through the mountains, climbing ever higher into the jungle. This was an adventure not to be missed, as we found ourselves in steadily thickening greenery. After about three hours of climbing, we finally turned toward the ocean and headed downhill at the city of Tepic. Here, the toll highway ends, and it becomes a twisty, turning road full of hairpin bends where we had to be constantly on guard as we dodged buses, horses, tractors and kamikaze drivers passing on the other side.
 Needless to say, this is a very slow road, but ever so interesting! You can always tell that you are coming to a tope (Mexican speed bump; pronounced toe-pay) when there is someone standing by the side of the road trying to sell you a bag of shrimp, nuts or cut up fruit. These topes are nasty, nasty things, at least two feet high, (well, maybe not quite, but they sure feel like it) and if you don’t see them coming and slow to a dead crawl, they jangle the brains right out of your head, not to mention the damage that they do to your car! It’s a good thing that we traded the Beamer in for a Jeep!

First floor courtyard
Finally, we arrived in Puerto Vallarta, and were lucky to get the last room in a very quaint little family run hotel called “The Posada de Roger”, which is where Bryce stayed when he was here for 10 days in June. While the rooms are pretty basic, it has a lot of lovely features that make it very inviting. There is a common kitchen on the top floor, where a person could make a full meal, and eat on the rooftop if they wished. The very inviting pool is on the third floor. Our room is on the first floor, which is just perfect, because there is a beautiful little courtyard where I am sitting right now typing this blog. 
A private rooftop garden


In fact, it works out perfect, because I can think out here while Bryce is watching TV in our room. One of the things that I love about this hotel is that because of all the common areas, people tend to be out visiting and meeting up with new friends. We met a delightful couple from Victoria, who are on their way to La Manzanilla on the bus, where they will stay until April.

We met up with our friend Val from White Rock today and went for dinner in a neat little restaurant that she found. Once again, I had no idea what I was ordering, and ended up with basically a thin sheet of cheese that had been fried and then shaped into a gigantic cone. It was truly delicious, but I’m not sure how healthy it was!

La Cocina (kitchen)


Saturday, 4 January 2014

Mazatlan: A Walk down Memory Lane

We slept in until 5:30 this morning, and were on the road by 6:00 am. The great thing about early morning is the light traffic. Fortunately, we had loaded up on snacks before leaving the U.S., and we enjoyed our breakfast of granola bars and potato chips as we headed down the highway. A little tip for anyone who might try this trip: the OXXO stores are just like 7-11 stores back home, you can get pretty much anything! Bryce got a good cup of coffee for the road, and I filled up my thermos with hot water for my tea for about $1.00.

Following Mexico highway 15 is much like taking the I-5 south from the Canadian border all the way to California. As long as you stay on 15, you won’t get lost, and it is the quickest, most direct route south. However, the tolls do add up, particularly as you get closer to Mazatlan.

We arrived in Mazatlan at 12:30, and decided to visit our old haunts, when we used to drive our motorhome down for 5 years in a row, and camp on the beach for Christmas Break. Just before reaching Mazatlan, we took the cutoff that goes to the beaches north of the city. We ate at one of our favourite restaurants on Cerritos beach, enjoying shrimp fajitas,  Bryce ordering his extra spicy!
Happy at Cerritos Beach, Mazatlan

Surfer at Cerritos Beach
We dropped in to see if our friends, Ron and Georgia were still staying at Maravillas RV Park. They have been spending their winters there for over 20 years. Sure enough, Georgia was out on her patio enjoying a mani/pedi from the woman who brings this service to you!
After enjoying a nice visit, and seeing how the RV park right on the beach is still exactly the same, even though there are huge condos built all around it, we headed south to find our hotel for the night at Isla Piedro. In order to get here, we had to drive 15 miles south of town, then head back toward town on a long peninsula that heads back toward town. This is a very remote area, it took us an hour to get here down a dirt road through coconut plantations. It is a beautiful beach, with small hotels and RV parks, but few services. We enjoyed another delicious shrimp meal at the hotel restaurant before settling in for the night.
The sunset from our hotel

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Crossing the Border into Nogales, Mexico

(Written by Bryce)

We left Nogales very early this AM.  (4 am) Both of us were lying there awake since 2:30 eager to leave, so we finally got up and got ready to go. We wanted to get an early start in order to beat the crowds!

We crossed the border and there was no one there??? We got to the barricade and up it went. We stopped and looked around..... there was no one to be seen! One important thing to remember if you ever decide to do this trip. Go west at exit 4 to the Truck Crossing, which takes you right onto the toll freeway, instead of continuing south on the freeway to the International Border, which takes you through the city of Nogales, Mexico. We meant to do this, but got mixed up, and ended up driving around in the dark in Nogales for half an hour until we finally stopped at a Pemex and asked for directions. (I should have listened to my wife and asked for directions sooner!)

We drove to Km. 21, which is where the border guards check to make sure that you are worthy to enter the country. We did our paperwork; it went just fine.  One little tip that we have learned the hard way is to bring photocopies of all your documents, including passport, driver's licence, car registration and Mexican car insurance. We all spoke the language of money, so they left with mine, I left with a couple of pieces of paper.  It all  sounds fair to me! It cost about $30 each for a visitor's visa, and about $60 for a car permit. If we forget to turn in the sticker that they put on our windshield when we leave the country, they will cost us $300!

Mexican Border Station at Km. 21

 We did about 600 km. today and arrived at the southern end of Sonora state by about 1:30 pm.  We had booked a nice looking place called "Hotel Fiesta Navajoa", and is it ever nice, although the bed is even harder than the beds in China, and that is saying something!  They like Ricky,and me as well. It was about 84 degrees fahrenheit by the pool and we ended up feasting at a nearby Tacqueria.  They had every part of the cow you could think of on a tortilla.  Lung, Tongue, tripe and that ain't no Bull. This is not a tourist town, so our very poor Spanish skills were put to the test. Arly doesn't eat meat, and she thought that she was ordering a fish taco, but it looked like beef to me! Funny how she forgets her ethical commitment when she is starving!

We plan to take it a little easier on our start time tomorrow, as we don't need to worry about beating the border lineup. We will be in Mazatlan by early afternoon and we have an old friend over on Stone Island that we are going to see.  We found a nice hotel on the island and we are planning to stay a couple of days before heading to Puerto Vallarta.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Driving to Puerto Vallarta

Life is full of adventure, and we are fortunate to be heading off on another one! We are presently in Nogales Arizona, which is right on the border with Mexico. We are heading to Puerto Vallarta in our jeep, with two month’s worth of clothes, books, magazines, cokes and chips. When we phoned to book our motel for the night, we were surprised to hear that both the Holiday Inn and Best Western want $50 a night non-refundable for our dog Ricky! We were thrilled when we called Motel 6 to hear that there is no charge for the dog, and they have a lovely pool. Although the rooms are pretty basic, the beds are comfortable and the motel is in a fairly quiet area, so we should get a good night’s sleep.

We will be up bright and early (4:00 am) to get across the border at daybreak, so that we can make as good a time driving as possible. We are heading for Navajoa, which is halfway to Mazatlan. Navjoa is 372 miles away, which should take around 7 or 8 hours.