Sunday, March 21, 2010

Catching Our Breath in Queen Creek, AZ and a Recap of our Last Days in Bucerias

We're back home in Queen Creek, Arizona.  The weather is absolutely beautiful - bright blue sky, sunny and warm, with just a breath of wind.  The desert is incredibly green.  I'm at my computer desk, looking out my window and observing a little gecko as it scurries along our cinder block fence.  This has not escaped the attention of Champie the cat, who is clearly fascinated by this strange little creature.  Terry is watching the Flames hockey game while floating in the pool, beer in hand. It's nice to be home.

We left Bucerias on March 8th.  Unfortunately, my blog postings were a little sparse near the end of our time in Bucerias.  Here's a brief recap of some of our travels/adventures before our departure:

Lyle and his buddy Allan enjoyed the beach most days, and tried to convince us to play a game of 'beer darts' with them.  Never heard of beer darts before?  For good reason.  Here's how it was explained to us:

You sit in a circle.  Full can of beer in front of you.  Someone throws a DART at your beer can.  If the can is pierced, you have to 'shotgun' the beer.  If the dart bounces off, hits you and pierces your skin anywhere, you get a free dart toss - at that person's butt!!

Excellent ....  Picture how things progress as people get a little 'deeper in their cups'...

Wisely, we chose not to participate.

So, the boys had to amuse themselves by just simply drinking on the beach.

Let me rephrase that .... a lot of drinking on the beach ....

We did manage to fit in a visit to Sayulita to see our buddies the Crawfords and Clarks.  We spent a lovely afternoon visiting on the beach.

We made friends with a couple that were staying at our RV park for a week.  Turns out they own a fabulous house in Sayulita, which they rent out during the season.  They invited us to stop by for a visit and a tour.  Here's a shot of their (literal) outdoor kitchen.

Their home is perched high on the hills in the jungle, overlooking the ocean.  Stunning.  Would be an interesting experience to rent there, as you are well off the beaten track, with access to an (almost) private beach.  Some of the nearby homes were absolutely incredible.

Since we were in Sayulita, Lyle and Allan attempted a little surfing.

We've been doing a little looking for places to rent for next year.  Judy and Joel will for sure need accommodation for a month, and we are seriously thinking of not taking the RV down, but instead renting a place (the economics make more sense depending on how long we stay - the jury is still out on that one).  Terry, Judy and I took a road trip to Lo De Marcos to check out a house on the beach that was available for a very reasonable price.


The house (or at least the original idea for the house) was a joint project of two American couples.  One couple bought the property, and the other couple was going to look after the building of the house itself.  Things went off the rails, and the couple that purchased the property ended up with the entire package.  Not having a lot of money left after their initial investment, they built the house to a little lower standards than they probably originally envisioned.  

It is large - 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms - more like a hotel.  Lots of potential, but literally minimal in the way of furnishings, and the furnishings that are there are well below the standards of what most North Americans would accept.  Thus the great deal on rent.  Too bad.  Lovely setting.

On one of our runs last year, Terry and I came across what we described as the "Mexican Spruce Meadows" - an impressive riding facility located just east of Bucerias.  Of course we wanted Lyle to see it while he was here.  We thought it would be interesting for him to tour their facility and check out the calibre of their horses, and compare their riding programs.  

We stopped by one afternoon and met the young owners and principal trainer, and toured the facility.  

For our last excursion, Terry thought it would be a great idea to charter a boat for a day.  This would give us the flexibility to tour the coastline, do a little snorkelling and whale watching, and possibly some fishing.  Something for everyone.  So, he met this friendly little Mexican on the beach and lined things up for us.

Mistake Number One:   Don't book with guys that you meet on the beach.  

He promised us the moon.  A beautiful boat was described for us, with a good crew who would do whatever we asked of them.  Promises of snorkelling.  Promises of whale watching.  Promises of fishing.  A down payment was made.

That same nice man met us in Nuevo Vallarta to meet the boat.  Of course the boat was late (sign of things to come).  Terry paid the balance of the money for the day's journey.

Mistake Number Two:  Don't pay in full for the trip until the end of the day.   There may be some incentive to make it a more memorable day if they know the money is coming at the completion of the day.

Here's the boat.

Old boat.  Beat up seating.  Toilet was disgusting.  In fact, it was a miraculous toilet.  You would flush it, and miraculously it would fill itself up with urine again.  Ewww.

Crew consisted of two older Mexican dudes who had the itinerary planned out completely ... THEIR itinerary.  No input from the gringos.  Off we roared from Nuevo Vallarta and towards Los Arcos for snorkelling.  The diesel smell kept most of our group away from the back of the boat in order to avoid becoming nauseous.  

We get to Los Arcos around noon, and there are many, many snorkel tour boats there.  We make the decision to move on and come back later when there are fewer boats and snorkellers in the water.  Off we roar to a little beach side resort area.  The boat is anchored, and we are picked up by a panga for a (literal) 2-second escort onto the beach.  We are met by a waiter from one of the restaurants.  Bad sign.  The expectation is that we are there for lunch.  We had not planned on this.

Our captain and crew immediately make themselves comfortable at another table full of their amigos, and start drinking beer.  We peruse the overpriced menu and order a plate of nachos and guacamole to share and splurge on margaritas.  Not what we had intended.

After about an hour, we decide that we should wrap things up and make our way back to Los Arcos to get some snorkelling time in.  Lyle goes over and tells the Captain this.  He responds by urging him to 'stay a little longer - it is so nice here'.  Getting a little ticked off now.  We press the issue, so they have the panga taxi pick us up for our 2-second return to the boat.  As we get off the panga and into our boat, we are informed that there is a $100 peso charge for the shuttle service!!  Now we are really feeling like they are taking advantage of us.  Grrrrr.....

Off we roar towards Los Arcos.  The water is a little rougher, so the Captain informs Terry that snorkelling is a bad idea - 'too rough'.  Angry, Terry informs him that 'we're going snorkelling'.  They provide snorkel masks, but no fins.  When Terry asks them about fins, they appear confused.  Angrier, Terry rifles through the back of the boat, finds the fins, and throws them out to us.  Grrrrr.......

The crew starts throwing bread out on the water - and the fish appear.  Many, many fish.  We are immediately mesmerized, and eagerly jump in the water.  

It is terrific.  We snorkel for quite a while.  This (almost) makes up for the day so far.

Back into the boat.  We head back towards Nuevo Vallarta.  Off in the distance, I spy a couple of whales spouting and surfacing.  We immediately yell to the Captain that we see whales.  He promptly informs us that 'those aren't whales, they are boats'.  Grrrrr......

Allan had wanted to fish, so as we were promised, we asked the captain if he could set that up.  Out come two fishing rods, with hooks but no bait.  Hmmm....  Then, he puts the boat into warp speed and off we roar.  Don't anticipate being able to catch anything travelling at those speeds and sans bait.  Grrrr.......

Finally, we arrive at the Nuevo Vallarta marina.  As the crewman is helping me exit the boat, he advises me 'Don't forget the tip'.  Grrrr....  I point at Terry, and leave, heading for the nearest clean washroom.  

Realizing I had the wallet in my bag, Terry has to follow me and wait outside the washroom.  The crew, not wanting to miss out on their tip, follow closely behind - not letting any of us out of their sights.  We leave a pittance of a tip to reflect the GREAT day, and they leave, grumbling.  

Lesson Number Three:  Confirm the Tip Ahead of Time and Be Clear of What They Must Do To Earn It.

Sometimes it pays to sign up for the 'touristy tours'.  At least you know what you're getting into.

So we said farewell to Bucerias on March 8th.  Judy decided that she would join us for the drive back to Arizona so she could experience the 'driving Mexico' scene.  We left bright and early that morning.  Things went very smoothly, despite my (and Judy's) concerns.

Our first evening was spent in Cuiliacan, a large city north of Mazatlan.  We stayed in an RV Park (more like a parking lot) attached to a nice hotel.  We had hoped to make our first night's camp at Celestino Gasca, but found that our big rig could not make the rough road and hills leading to the RV Park there, so we carried on instead to Cuiliacan.

Our next day took us to Guaymas, where we stayed at the beautiful Hotel Playa de Cortez RV Park.

Besides its lovely architecture and stunning setting, this historic hotel has an interesting story behind it.  My buddy Brenda penned an excellent article describing it:

After we set up camp in the RV Park, we unloaded the SUV and did a whirlwind tour of nearby San Carlos so Judy could see how lovely it is there.  We stopped for a margarita and to watch the sunset at the 'Soggy Peso' beach bar.  Magnificent sunset and lovely ambiance, but we almost froze to death!  You are definitely out of the tropics and back into the cooler desert air that far north.

Brenda and Adrian happened to be staying at the Hotel Playa de Cortes RV Park as well, so we enjoyed a visit that evening and breakfast in the hotel with them the next morning.  We then carried on with our plan to be home to Queen Creek that evening.

All in all the trip home through Mexico was uneventful (meaning:  no mishaps, no wrong ways on one-way streets - you know the drill by now).  We had a couple of agricultural check stops that required inspections, and one military check point, but we found in all cases we were treated with respect.  In fact, Judy even managed to sleep right through the first agricultural inspection!

So adios Mexico, and we'll be back next year.  We have a few things under consideration for next year, including the possibility of purchasing a property there.  Much to think about.

Being back home in Arizona is nice.  As I mentioned, the weather has been great.  We are enjoying the pool, and the cats in particular are enjoying being free to wander the backyard at their leisure.  No more house on wheels for a while!

We arrived home on the 10th, and Lowell, Nancy and Jocelyn arrived on the evening of the 12th.  They were here to watch Joel play in a NCAA baseball tournament.  So the past week has been split between visiting, watching ball, shopping, and hanging around the pool, whipping up margaritas and barbequing suppers.

We managed to squeeze a few excellent hikes in for good measure (San Tan Regional Park and The Lost Dutchman Goldmine Park).  

Jocelyn experienced her first motorcycle ride up to Tortilla Flat with Uncle Terry. 

Judy left on th 17th.  Lowell, Nancy and Jocelyn left this morning.  So we're all alone now, with the exception of the cats.  It's awfully quiet around here, and we're feeling a little lonely already.  Time to get the paperwork caught up and shift our focus to our upcoming sailing trip in the BVIs.  Hard to believe it is less than two weeks away!

1 comment:

Randal Wark said...

Good tips for the boat tours...not all are created equal!

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I invite you to vote on your favourite spots in Bucerias!