Saturday, 10 January 2009

04/12/2008 - 09/01/2009 Mazatlan - Barra De Potosi

04/12/2008 - La Paz - Mazatlan. The Ferry crossing. We arrive at the Docks and struggle our way through some language barriers and purchase our tickets as well as the other necessary documentation. We can order the beer and the chicken but it’s a bit useless when you are talking to a Wharfie trying to work out words for “Upper Deck” “Loading Procedures”, “RV Weights” etc etc. I must admit the people at the Ticket Office for the ferry were the first lot of Mexican's that were not very helpful and made this quite a daunting experience. So after we get through that process we head over to where we needed to park Stubbie be to board the ferry. Challenge #2. To at least have the chance to stay in the night in Stubbie you need to get on the top deck (the people at the ticket counter had told us that we can not stay in the motorhome under any circumstance - but we had done a bit of research and had heard differently. So I wander over to the Ferry and try to ask one of the ferry staff members if it is possible to be placed on the top deck and to stay overnight. (We discover that the Spanish word “ALTO” can mean “Stop, High and Tall”.)From what I could gather he said he would try his best. After a few hours wait the Ferry starts to get loaded, I once again try out my Spanish and go over and see the man who looks in charge of doing all the loading and once again ask if it is possible to be placed on the top deck – this man does speak some English – so we are starting to feel more comfortable, next time he comes near us we offer him a Coke (Coke seems to be a bit of a treat for the Mexicans). Many trucks etc have been loaded and there are only about 10 of us left to board (we are the only motorhome). We are then requested to load. Challenge #3 – We need to get Stubbie onto the platform to be hoisted up to the top level. Unfortunately there is a ramp of about 10 feet which is rather steep. This has the potential to cause some major problems to the overhang at the back of Stubbie. The workers were just fantastic as they placed us on the platform, inch by inch being very careful not to make a mess of Stubbie. Two guys (one at the back and one at the front) gave us directions, via whistles, to manoeuvre Stubbie around the decks of the ship. (At time with only millimetres to spare.) So to ensure we receive the same service we hand out Cokes all round to the wharfies and tip the head honcho - $10.00. They have placed us in a perfect position, we have enough room to open our door (and if we wanted to we had enough room to place our chairs on the deck), and we had an ocean view. There was not a better place to be parked on board the whole ship. So we play a few games of cards and then we decide to go up and have ourselves some dinner (we have meal vouchers for dinner and breakfast). We enter the small dining room filled with Mexican Truckies, we find a table and whilst we are waiting for our Menu, our meals have arrived. Guess it’s what is placed in front of us or nothing – luckily it was fairly tasty. So after a good nights sleep and a bit of a leisurely cruise into the harbour it’s now time to unload. So we need to go through the whole process of getting Stubbie off – we are left to nearly last, as we are going to need some time to get us down the Ramp, once again the staff were really excellent and got us down without any hitches. So once again Dave sets off with a carton of Coke and $20.00. We are all very happy. The staff on the ferry really went out of their way to try and accommodate us.

05/12/2208 – 08/12/2008. Mazatlan. Our first travels on the streets of the mainland were a little bit more crowded than what we had previously experienced on the Baja. We arrive at our campground, which is located in a small block right on the beach; the campground is surrounded by a wire fence. There are a large number of vendors trying to sell the usual touristy stuff on the beach. Whilst I’m looking out our window I notice that two of the campers are talking to one of the vendors selling jewellery, so of course I couldn’t help myself and went over. The campers have told me that they have been coming to this particular campground for many years and that they only buy their jewellery from this particular vendor, who will make pieces to order and has very good quality, so after I purchased a necklace, ring and earrings, through a barb wire fence I said goodbye. We had a couple of nice days exploring Mazatlan, but it was time to keep moving on to Puerto Vallarta.
Our trip takes us though a number of villages and over many Topes. We now have a record of 22 Topes in a row about 10 metres apart. We find that on the mainland we can only average 30k/hr on the highways due to these damn Topes. So it takes a long time to get anywhere.

08/12/2008. Puerto Vallarta. It was an 8 hour drive to Puerto Vallarta, along many a winding road which was a little bit stressful for all on board and whilst we are driving to Puerto Vallarta Dave and I are congratulating each other on the way we have been able to get around Mexico without any damage to Stubbie, or getting lost – bad move. Whilst travelling along the highway passing through one of the small villages we find out that they have closed the highway for a festival. We now understand that the children waving to us on the street were trying to tell us that we couldn’t get through; we just waved to everyone and kept on going. As the festival is in full swing cars have been parked on both sides of the road, the only way out was to reverse Stubbie about 300 metres before we could even attempt a 10 point turn – we head on. We made the turn without leaving any of Stubbie on the overhanging street fronts, poles, wires or trees.

We arrive into Puerto Vallarta and decide that we will purchase some groceries prior to checking into the campground – mistake no. 1. So we drive past a shopping centre and try and negotiate our way back, of course we have arrived around peak hour – mistake no. 2. We haven’t had a chance to check out the entrance and exits of the shopping centre – we have started to get a bit lazy with this as there have not been any problems previously – mistake no. 3. So we find the entrance and we start to turn in – Dave asks me if we are okay and I say yes – mistake no. 4. I was only looking at the front of Stubbie on my side and not at the back wheels – mistake no. 5. Of course there are no signs that vehicles over a certain length can not enter (in Spanish or English), next minute crunch – we have caught the corner edge of a steel girder – ouch – we now have a flat tire and damaged wheel trim - mistake no. 6. I then get out of Stubbie to try and get a ticket to let us through the parking gates so we can park and have a look at the damage. No such luck the parking attendant comes over and informs us that large vehicles do not fit in this car park – really. I ask her if we can come in and turn around and she says no “a vehicle our size is not allowed in the cark park”, so by this time we have a dozen or so cars behind us – all honking to get in to the car park. A good Samaritan comes along and assess the situation and tries to convince the car park attendant (in Spanish) to let us in so we could turn around and let the other vehicles banking up behind us into the car park – she stood her ground and would not allow us in. So here I am now out on the edge of the main highway – trying to get the cars behind us to back-up so we can reverse our poor injured Stubbie out. So after these cars have gone – I am now out in the middle of the two-lane highway stopping traffic so Dave (with the help of our Good Samaritan) can reverse Stubbie out – after about 5 minutes of manoeuvring Stubbie we are back on the highway – limping along looking for a Tyre place. Of course we decide that we will purchase two new tyres and we will keep one of the used tyres for a spare. We will need to stay in Puerto Vallarta a couple of days whilst the second tyre is delivered, so now we have one new tyre on Stubbie, it is starting to get dark so we decide not to worry about the groceries and instead start looking for our camp ground. Well we were only about two blocks away from it – but with the help of the wrong directions in our campground book it took us about an hour to find it – by this time Dave and I were just looking for a place to sit down and relax. As yet our most stressful day on the road – but hey we survived and the next day we could at least (okay I could) have a good laugh.

09/12/2008 – 11/12/2008. Puerto Vallarta. The next morning we wake up and find that our neighbour’s two doors down are from Kaleden (Canada) – we just couldn’t believe it. The campground host offers to give us a lift into the Centro (it is only about 2 kilometres from the campground). Whilst looking around we decide to get something to eat at one of their hole in the wall cafes (we needed to see if our Hepatitis and Tetanus shots were working) - for our $10 we received a whole BBQ chicken, some tortilla’s, some tacquitos, some chillies and a very large bottle of soft drink – what a bargain and neither of us got sick….

We really enjoyed walking around Puerto Vallarta, and seeing some of the sights. The beachfront area is really pretty. The Puerto Vallarta harbour was previously a volcano that has sunk into the sea – after about 10 metres out from the waterline it gets extremely deep and now has depths of around 1800 metres, which is great for when the whales come down apparently they come right into the harbour. On our way home we stop and finally get those groceries.

After a little rest we walk back into downtown and wander on down to the beach area and have a lovely dinner right on the beach. On our walk home we happen to stumble on one of the Mexican Celebrations prior to Christmas “The Lady of Guadalupe”, it was a really great experience to just stand around and watch the processions of people dancing and singing. We have come to learn that the Mexicans evening start a lot latter – some of the restaurants don’t even open to 7:00pm and the children are still out and about with their families late into the evening. Their main meal is normally served around 2:00pm – I can’t wait that long. The next afternoon our Kaleden visitors invite us over for a drink, of course we ended up spending many hours talking about Kaleden and having drinks and dinner.

11/12/208 – 13/12/2008 – Melaque. Melaque is a small village, which is a lot less of a touristy area and has a wonderful feel about it. It was a shame we could only spend the two nights here, it would be a place that The Big Fella and I would enjoy to spend a bit more time exploring.

13/12/2008 – 09/01/2008 . Barra De Potosi. (So much has happened in Barra De Potosi that I’m not even going to try and get everything into date order – so this section will be a bit over the shop).

After a 12 hour day we are finally getting close to our destination. We were going to take two days to travel from Melaque to Barra De Potosi but we decided to push on. Probably not another one of our brightest ideas, it is starting to get dark and now we can’t even see those bl**dy Topes on the roads. We eventually see a small sign saying De Potosi so I ask the Big Fella to take a turn. The street (ok it looks more like a laneway, even by Mexican standards) leads into a small village and continues on through – it is now pitch black, there is no street lighting at all (one of the reasons you don’t travel at night), and continues for a couple of kilometres. At this stage Dave is really unsure and is concerned as it is difficult to see all the overhanging trees etc without any street lighting. I tell him that I’m sure we are on the right road (my fingers are crossed) and to just keep going for a little bit longer. After about another 15 minutes we finally arrive. The place we are staying is a really lovely little B&B which has turned the front yard into a small camping area. So after a bit of manoeuvring we finally park Stubbie and have a good night sleep. Of course I wake up the next morning and decide that if we are going to spend a couple of weeks here that it would be best to drive Stubbie in rather than reverse her in – luckily I married a very patient man.

The next morning we have a chance to have a look around at where we will be spending the next couple of weeks. We are only about 500 metres from the fishing village either by road or by beach. The fishing village is small, but has many restaurants a couple of small little shops – so we are very happy, we are hoping to be able to mingle with locals and experience their culture. Later in the afternoon we decide to try and find the Howards (our wonderful friends from Canada) who are also spending two weeks here. The Big Fella had been on Google Earth previously trying to work out the distance between the two of us, it appears to be about 6 kilometres. So after chatting to our new hosts we ask if it would be possible to borrow / hire their quad bike to go and see if we could find the Howard clan. Karen and Cecil (our new hosts) said that it was no problem to borrow the quad and if we would just put some gas in that would be fine. So after a few instructions from Cecil on how to drive the Quad, (we do find out that it has no brakes) the Big Fella is a little bit worried about driving any sort of vehicle that doesn’t have brakes, we head off – to start off it was a bit like teaching a learner to drive a manual car for the first time.

We finally make it down to Villas Playa Blanca (the Howards residence) only to be told by Karin (Bobbie and Brant’s daughter) that they left about 15 minutes ago to try and find us – so back on the Quad and this time by road to try and find them and that we did. So Dave takes Brant on the back of the Quad to Stubbie and then comes back to pick up Bobbie and I up. It was sure really neat to see them again. (We are now driving an unregistered quad bike with no brakes on Mexican roads.)

Karen and Cecil have been just wonderful hosts, they have gone out of their way to help us in any way they can. Karen is about 70 (she looks fantastic) and Cecil is close to that as well. Cecil has only one lung and has trouble with his back – but he never stops working. After Karen and Cecil had taken us into town one day to get some groceries, we drove back to their place and as we were going through the gates, Karen mentioned to Cecil that the fence needs painting – of course I yell from the back that I’ll (okay Dave and I) will do it for them – once again I need to keep my mouth shut – no that’s not true they have been so good to us that it’s the least we can do.

Time with the Howard Clan – 14/12/2008 – 27/12/2008. It was really great to see all the Howards’ and to realise that whilst we are not going to be with our family over the Christmas / New Years holiday we still have some very special people in our lives to share this period of time with. This is the time that we really do miss spending time with family and friends.
The Howards also have another friend in the area – Mark. Mark is a really easy going person and has offered to take us all (yep that’s 9 of us – plus himself) out to have a look at where his property is at Troncones. So we travel Mexican style, we seat 5 inside and as many as you like in the back of the pickup. Mexican police are only worried if the driver is wearing a seat belt. No one else is required to wear one. Mark’s property is in an absolutely gorgeous position right on the point of the beach. Whilst we are admiring his property and the rocks and water pools we have our first sighting of whales (that is on the main land). I really don’t think that I could ever get tired of watching these magnificent creatures frolicking around in the ocean. We then went and had a bite to eat and then Mark took us to his Condos that are currently being built. Mark has purchased 3 Condos in the complex, one of which is on the top floor and has magnificent views.

We have many wonderful times with the Howards, many meals and a few quiet drinks, too many to mention individually. We hired a Panga twice to have a look around the area and to get some snorkelling in ………Of course Brant has already lost one snorkel so is borrowing Lisa’s for the trips in the Panga. We then find out that later that Brant was using Bobbie’s snorkelling gear (and depending on which story you listen to he either gently fell over and the gear came loose, or he was smashed by a wave and the gear went flying) either way he lost another set. Whilst I’m talking about Brant, he also bought a pair of sandals, well he thought they were a pair but he had one size 10 and one size 11, oh well at least he got one left and one right one. Sorry Brant I’ll lay off you now.

Back to the Panga’s – one of the problems with the Panga’s is that there is no ladder to get yourself back in the boat after snorkelling, so unfortunately Bobbie and Brant ended up with many a cut and bruise trying to get back into the Panga. They look much more comfortable on skies than trying to get into a Panga. One of the places we went snorkelling was Manzanillo Beach – the water was crystal clear with numerous varieties of fish and other sea life – definitely a great place to go snorkelling.

23/12/2008 – Dave, Cecil and I were taking it easy under the Palapa when it looked like the ocean was starting to boil. We had an area about 100m by 50m alive with very excited fish. Cecil was up out of his chair running to get his fishing line. Of course this scene cleared the water of all swimmers, I was up to by ankles and I couldn’t stand it at as the sardines (which are more like a small whiting over here) just kept hitting my feet. At one stage Dave was out there up to his knees trying to catch the Horrell with his hands, but all he got was a bruised ankle where one of the Horrell ran into him and nearly knocked him flying. He has had a bruise on his ankle for a week now. The sardines were actually beaching themselves to get away from the larger fish chasing them. Of course there were many people on the beach eager to get the smaller fish back into the water (I was one of them). Whilst many others were out there with whatever they could get their hands on to try and catch them, some of the villagers were using bait nets, some were using hand lines, some T shirts and the more wealthy Tourists were using rods. I couldn’t believe it I have never seen anything like this. After it was all over you could look up the beach and see many a Horrell on the beach. We caught two Horrell but both were given away one to Karen and Cecil’s maid and the other to a large family on the beach. Horrell is a really dark strong tasting fish; we had just had some the previous night. Great fighting fish to catch.

We have been asking around to find out what time their Church services are on Christmas Eve and we have been told that there will be one at 8:00pm. So Bobbie, Brant, Dave and myself all head down to the village after 7:00 and have a wander around the streets, it really is amazing they way they all decorate their houses etc. So we wander past the church at around 7:30pm but nothing is happening so we decide to go for another walk we have another look at the church around 8:00 it still doesn’t look like there is going to be any service, so we decided to go and get a drink and a small bite to eat. As we are sitting outside the restaurant, what looks like all of the children from the village, come singing around the corner, some of the children are carrying lighting and are heading towards the church – this makes me feel like it’s Christmas (oh I forgot to mention we have been listing to Christmas Carols in Spanish in Stubbie). So we finish eating / drinking and go wandering back down to the Church, unfortunately everyone is coming out – so it looks like we have missed out on the Church service. But the festivities for the kids is still going on, they now have about 4 Piñatas for differing age groups to smash and scramble for their candy – this was really great to see. Whilst the smashing of the Piñatas is going on the Village folk are handing out food and drinks – this makes me feel like it is Christmas time. To see the children’s faces when they have grabbed some candy is really priceless.

On Christmas day Karen and Cecil have invited about 10 village children over for another smashing of a Piñata and to receive some small presents. Karen and I went shopping and we went halves in purchasing some small gifts for these kids. It is just amazing that these children that have hardly anything are so polite and respectful when receiving their gifts. Dave and I have observed how happy the children of Mexico are, from what we have back home and how to us they seem to have hardly anything, but they always seem to have a smiles on their face and are extremely friendly and polite. We spend Christmas Day relaxing on the Beach with the Howards and have a simple Steak and Prawn dinner.

New Years Eve –Our hosts have invited us out to dinner at the Las Palmas Hotel for New Years Eve (We went their one night with both Bobbie and Brant and Karen and Cecil – and had an excellent evening). In the morning we are scraping and preparing the fence for painting, when I hear Dave yelp – yep there goes the back. Karen has also invited one of her neighbours Pat (a really lovely lady) over for dinner so it is now only 4 of us that will be going to dinner – I do make Dave a Vegemite sandwich before I go. We had a good evening, with a bonfire and the toasting of marshmallows on the beach, we then went and had a drive around the village to see everyone in the streets and then we went home – and I know it’s sad but I didn’t make it to see the New Year in. And it was great to wake up on New Years Day with no hangover – I saved that for the next day – it was Pat’s birthday. Karen and Cecil’s maid’s son and wife (Titto and Carmen) had invited us all for lunch. Carmen has made a terrific Prawn Ceviche (similar to a cold soup –absolutely delicious) and then Chicken with a Molè sauce – what a great feed. It is interesting to experience some of their cultures first hand, whilst Carmen had done all the cooking, it was Titto that did the serving and the cleaning up – I could enjoy this culture. So after lunch the girls ended up sitting around the table having a great chat and I for one had too many vodka tonic’s (Karen was mixing them for me). So at about 10:30 that night Pat said it was time to go home, I’m glad that someone was there to send me home. Of course from what I can remember I had a great night, and I don’t know if Karen and Pat were just being polite but said that I had no need to apologise and they also had a great fun night. (Pat is currently on her own waiting for some friends and her husband to come down and join her in the next couple of days – so I think she had a great birthday and one she won’t forget in a hurry.)

Our time in Barra De Potosi has been just wonderful (made extra special by seeing the Howards’ and also by our hosts Karen and Cecil) we were planning on spending just over two weeks here, but the Big Fella has another tooth problem so off to the Dentist and after $80 over an hour in the office he is told that he will need to come back on the 6th for either an extraction or root canal – it is amazing how quickly Dave can look up the Spanish / English dictionary and learn Spanish for no extraction. It looks like we will need to wait and see.

Dave has spent the last couple of days resting his mouth and back. We went back to the dentist and she conducted a root canal on the tooth. If that settles down over the next couple of days he will get a crown put on next week and then he will probably need to go back three days after that. (In Mexico you have a choice of crowns porcelain or metal…..Metal is very cheap and very shiny…) So it looks like we will be spending some more time in Barra De Potosi.

I’ve come to the realisation that The Big Fella is not going to be able to help me out with the painting, so I’ve decided to just get in and get it done. The first solo day I spend just cutting in and preparing the fence for the roller painting. The next day I get the roller out and off I go – I can’t say I’ve done much painting before, but I’ve actually enjoyed it, of course the Big Fella has been able to get out of bed and let me now the spots that I’ve missed or if I’m doing something wrong. He hasn’t lost his touch at being able to Manage people.

Another of the things we like about Barra De Potosi is that several times we’ve been able to sit on the beach and watch the Humpback Whales frolic on past. One of the mornings we were out swimming and it was really quiet and when Dave was diving under the water he swore that he could hear the whales, after about ½ hour we got out of the water and headed up to the Palapa and would you believe the whales were about 200 metres of shore. This really is a great spot to be stranded, whilst Dave is recuperating with his teeth and back. Oh did I mention that there is a great Masseuse only one house down the beach, she does charge $25.00 for an hour. The Big Fella has even had a massage, I’ve had a couple and I’m looking forward to my next one.

Karen and Cecil’s neighbours (Bob and Pat) invited us all over for dinner one morning, as Bob had caught a large fish that morning – so of course I said yes, as we were sitting under the Palapa, you could see another boil over starting to approach us, so the Big Fella who has hardly been able to get out of bed is down the beach throwing a line in – he his successful within a matters of minutes and has caught another Horrell (it really was a great battle). After awhile he decides to let me have a go – but unfortunately the only fish I can talk about was the one that got away. Bob and Pat’s maid cooked us all a lovely dinner that night and we ended up having a few Margarita’s to finish the night off - another great night at De Potosi.

The days are all starting to run into each other. The walk along the beach, the morning swim, a quick check to see what the local fisherman have caught, lunch at the Enramadas on the Beach near the village, a little party nap, sunsets and Margaritas under the Palapas....

We are Here....

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