We have been in Mexico for about a month now—two weeks of it in Puerto Vallarta—and I think I speak for everyone when I say that it’s a pretty cool place. Which is good beings how we’re going to be here a while.
So where are we exactly? Technically we’re not in Puerto Vallarta; we are in Nuevo Vallarta which lies about halfway between PV and La Cruz and is about 15 minutes from either by car (or 25 minutes if your taxi driver actually slows down over the 180 sets of speed bumps between the coast and the highway.) NV was developed as a planned resort community so it’s dominated by large hotels, timeshares, luxury villas, and two marinas. It’s a bit insulated but it’s easy enough to get to town, there’s a lot to do, and it’s fairly secure (from both an extreme weather and a personal safety standpoint). Plus the whole place is on a five-mile, white sand beach. So that’s nice.
No, really. Where are we exactly? We are currently in the marina at the Paradise Village Resort. Besides the fact that the marina is one of the top-rated in Mexico (and summer rates are ridiculously low), we chose this spot for nostalgic reasons (and not exactly ours) in that Raven spent three years here in the early 00’s (two owners ago). Apparently she has quite a reputation as she won three consecutive regattas—which is pretty impressive given her tonnage and the fact that she was designed more to withstand the North Sea and not so much for racing. The rumor is that there’s a bar that declared it would give free drinks in perpetuity to Raven’s owners (any owners) as tribute to her achievement. We’ve yet to find the bar, but intend to hit every one in the region till we do (yes, we are that dedicated.)
A nice perk about being in this marina is that we get to use all the hotel amenities and whereas the resort itself has a no pet policy, allowances are made for boat dogs. Otter is allowed on the beach and along the perimeter of the property that leads to the beach (so shrubs and small expanses of lawn are available for his…ahem…“private” use). He is also allowed on the docks, which stretch about half a mile along the inner harbor up to the edge of the property. Other resorts lie beyond on the ocean side while on the estuary side there are a smattering of cantinas interspersed with long stretches of what we’ve termed the “Land of Nopes”—fenced off areas of scrub, long grass, wild palms, wildlife, and ominous rustling sounds. We know there are crocodiles in the area and we quickly pass any section of missing fence because you don’t know what’s going to come scurrying out—grouse, iguana, pissed-off lizard, or something out of Jurassic Park.
How’re you liking it so far? So far, we love it! Although the climate has taken some getting used to (I’ve never lived in a place where you can cut the air with a knife), I can see why it’s popular with the expat community. For one thing, it’s incredibly reasonable. Moorage rates during hurricane season run around $0.35/foot. Services (mechanics, et al) are unbelievably affordable ($50 to have our outboard’s carburetor overhauled? Viva la Mexico!) Groceries are about 25-30% less than what you’d spend in the states; gringo “imports” are slightly more than a US grocery store but on a par with US convenience store prices. Prescription drugs are available (without a prescription) at a fraction of US prices. And restaurants? We haven’t had a bad meal yet, and they’re so inexpensive you feel like you’re ripping someone off. So far the only thing we’ve found that’s more expensive is wine. Mexican beer is cheap; most hard liquor is on par with the US; but wine prices seem to run about 50% more. I get the feeling that in the land of tequila, wine just hasn’t yet found its footing—at least not here. (When you’re pulling people into your tequila emporium with promises of “We’ll get you wasted for 100 pesos!” you’re marketing to a whole different audience.)
We’ve also found that time seems to move a little slower in Mexico (of course that could be the heat—you can break a sweat just drinking a glass of water too fast). Meals take a little longer (again, could be the heat. When the food is terrific, the beer is cold, and it’s 10⁰ cooler in the shade, it’s easy to linger.), people walk a bit slower (it’s hard to keep up a fast pace when your thighs are sticking together), and outdoor chores can take about twice the time (please see aforementioned heat.) But the folks here are awesome! All the people we’ve met are conscientious, very personable, and genuinely helpful. Granted, we’re berthed at a resort and have spent time in the touristy spots (because that’s what you do when you hit a new town) so that’s to be expected I guess. But I honestly think the same can be said for the people we’ve met outside of the go-to areas (which happens a lot because we have a knack for getting lost). That being said, I have noticed a few things about the Mexican people we’ve met so far. For instance:
Everybody has a side job as a timeshare agent. Cabo was lousy with them—they would follow you down the street trying to get you to “do the presentation” in exchange for gifts and cash—the value of which would increase the more you said “no”. The farther you walked, the sweeter the deal. Here in Puerto Vallarta, they’re a bit more subtle. You’d get to chatting with a bartender or a taxi driver or the customer service guy at MEGA supermarket and the next thing you know they’re extolling the virtues of luxurious living at [FILL IN THE BLANK] del Mar.
Everybody has a business card. From the guy peddling NFL-branded sombreros to the bartender at the roadside cantina to the bagger at the local bodega, it seems that everybody has a business card and hands them out freely. We keep them in a cigar box onboard because you never know when you might need a living statue. Editor’s Note: The Captain and I owned a commercial printing company in Washington State. If we had had the Mexican concession on business cards, we could have had Raven gold-plated and flown to Aruba on a jumbo jet and still have enough chump change left over to just buy the island outright. (We’d have to. A gold-plated Raven would sink straight to the bottom of the harbor and we’d need to own it to retain our salvage rights. That and we’d make a fortune off the glass-bottom boat tours.)
Everybody “knows a guy”. Need a mechanic? Your bottom scraped (quit sniggering)? A bodega that sells 26 different flavors of chicharron? A heart bypass? Doesn’t matter who you talk to, if that person can’t help you they know somebody that can. The Mexican people are very well connected; their LinkedIn pages must take up half the servers in Silicon Valley. On our second day here, we were heading toward the main boatyard in PV when approached by Trini—she was selling “extreme adventures” and when we told her we needed a mechanic more than a zip line through the forest, she said she knew a guy and would call him. On our way back from the boatyard, she flagged us down. It seemed that her guy only worked on cars but that HE knew a guy. She gave us her business card if we wanted to connect with him…or buy a time-share.
So how does this affect the Third Voyage? It doesn’t. This is merely one part of the journey—a hiatus if you will, but with a running clock. Aruba is still the goal so whether it takes six months or six years, I’ll keep recording the days as long as you guys (both of you!) are still interested in reading about them. Besides, my six pages on figuring out the bus system promises to be riveting!
Pictured: The pathway from the marina to the beach.
Not Pictured: Iguanas! Lots and lots of iguanas! They're everywhere and it drives Otter nuts. He's not allowed to go after them as they're a protected species. That and they know karate.
The palapa overlooking the entrance to the estuary. The marina is in the background.
A palapa is an open-sided structure with a roof made of dried palm leaves. They generally come standard with a fruity drink and a nice breeze but mainly I like saying, "Palapa!"
Palapa! Palapa! Palapa!
Pictured: Beach-side view of Paradise Village (with palapas!)
Not Pictured: Me. I should be underneath a palapa with a fruity drink. Instead I'm taking this so-doesn't-do-it-justice photo.
A sea turtle laying eggs on the beach. Normally they do this at night but it was 6:00 pm and she probably wanted to get in on the two-for-one happy hour action.
Pictured: El Malecon in Puerto Vallarta—a statue- and sculpture-lined boardwalk bordering PV's Old Town.
Not Pictured: Time-share salesman. The Captain figures if he keeps walking, they'll throw in three more bottles of tequila and a new car.
Game of Thrones: Mexican Edition