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Route Map

Report #6
Puerto Vallarta, Melaque, Faro de Bucerias


April 7, 2007

After a fruitless search through Puerto Vallarta for the two RV parks in our guidebook we stumble into Tachos, a pretty RV Park with cobble stoned roadways and shady palms.

Tachos RV Park, Puerto VallartaThe bathrooms are in the usual decrepit state, but what totally took Steve by surprise was sharing the facilities with the “girls.” When he first walked in he thought he had the wrong baño because there were a group of mini-skirted young ladies encamped before the mirrors, primping from suitcase-sized makeup kits. He backed out of the room, thinking he’d made a mistake ...but no, the sign said “cabilleros.” So he went back in and told the young ladies they were in the wrong bathroom ...upon which they set to tittering and some nearby kids nearly wet themselves they were laughing so hard. One of them finally whispered to him, “gays.” It turns out that Puerto Vallarta is the gay capital of Mexico.

The “girls,” of course, are on holiday for Holy Week. Outside of monopolizing the mirror space, they pretty much keep to themselves. Except when they drive round and round the campground in a red convertible with the top down, sprawled over the trunk like prom queens. They play a kind of hip hop salsa music REALLY loud so you cannot NOT notice them.

Most of the time this is enjoyed as part of the local colour, but the thing is, they get dolled up and head out to the clubs about 10 pm. By 11 the park settles down and everyone goes to bed. Then at 4 am, and after four nights here I swear you can set youfamily swimming in Puerto Vallartar clock by this, they return, making a full tour of the campground with their music going FULL blast again. The ladies are home for the night. We roll over and go back to sleep. Once you get the routine figured out you adapt.

The park is also full of Mexican holidayers. It appears that families, and maybe even whole villages, charter humongous buses to bring them to the beach for Holy Week. Once here, they create tarped and tented encampments. Millions of children are flying around, in and out of the pool, food is burning on the barbie, the bushes are all covered in drying clothes and music, loud lively music fills the air.

Weather is currently hot and muggy during the day but by evening it is much cooler andSand sculpture of Last Supper we sleep well.

Downtown Puerto Vallarta is a mob scene of holidayers – street hawkers and families partying on the beach and young people riding around in the back of pickup trucks and pretty young tarts arranging themselves where they will be noticed. The beach is also home to sand sculpting and for Holy Week, the theme is the Last Supper.

We walked the backstreets and through the market stalls. All the usual t-shirts and hats and thin muslin sundresses. The things I do see that I want – like a hammock chair, are too expensive. ThSpanish Dancerse vendor wants $100 and I wouldn’t pay more than $30. So it’s a standoff and we laugh together about that. After paying just $18 for a beautiful hammock in CR I could never bring myself to pay $100 here.

One thing I've really enjoyed here in Mexico is all the street art. Whimsical statuary decorates public places pretty much everywhere we've been. The malecons (ocean walkways) are a favourite place for them and Puerto Vallarta does not disappoint. In one spot there was a whole circle of fantastical statuary - with holidayers draping themselve over it, for photos. My favourite though, was an elegant statue of Spanish dancers.

I’ve never seen such plucky, hardworking people. They put so much effort into man paintingmaking things nice. With all the dust and the lack of money it is not easy. We watched one fellow, with everything around him falling apart, patiently repainting the balcony railing on his own tiny apartment.

We’ve also noticed that almost every building has re-bar poking out the roof. Kind of like the “unfinished basement” in reverse. It seems that people build the first floor and have hopes of some day scraping together the money for a second floor. So they leave re-bar poking up into the sky. Someone told us it’s because they don’t have to pay property taxes till a building is “finished.” Don’t know if that is true, but it would explain a lot.

Relaxing “at home” later that afternoon we noticed a large (maybe 4 feet from tail to head), lizard in the tree. While Steve was chasing him around to get a photo, two smaller lizards poked their heads out. Turns out they live in a hollow tree beside us.

We’re pleased to see them because there has been a noticeable lack of wildlife in Mexico. Virtually anywhere else in the world we’ve been entertained by the local birds, rodents, lizards, and whatever. Until today, the only Mexcian wildlife we’ve seen are two cockroaches, some lethargic pelicans, and big black birds that cannot be bothered to beg.

San Patricio Melaque
April 10, 2007

Heading south this morning, our objective is the coastal town of San Patricio Melaque. It’s a slowBusy Highway but interesting road, taking 5 hours to travel just 200 km. A lot of climbing up and down mountains, puttering behind overloaded trucks through agricultural valleys, occasional glimpses of ocean. Roads here have been built to service the communities they connect, not amuse the tourists. So they rarely skirt the coastline and when they do, virtually never offer viewpoint pull-offs.

The RV Park has some empty spots but is VERY busy and fills up within an hour or two of our arrival. While the bulk of families have headed back home after Holy Week, the kids have another week off so there are still lots of Mexican families on holiday.

Melaque campEach family takes one little cheek-by-jowl campsite and manages to squeeze 4 or 5 tents and a portable kitchen and 15 or more people onto it, including grandma who walks around scowling at us. They have blow-up paddle pools for the toddlers, pull the seats out of vehicles to create outdoor living rooms, and always, but always have a television permanently on. Especially in the evening, when everyone sits around staring into it.

Our campsite abuts the wall between us and the beach. That does not mean we are on the beach. No, that means we are abutting the “free” tent encampments directly on the beach. So they lean over the wall and plug their extension cords into our plug, dump their waste water over the wall onto the grass under our trailer and since we are only one small trailer with two people, they freely make use of any space we don’t literally drape ourselves over.

It’s a different style of living, so much togetherness. When I look at how small their houses are and how many people they squeeze in, then think of my huge house Melaqueat home with just two people in it ...well, it is interesting and different. I don’t mind all this togetherness in the short term but it would be a very trying thing to adjust to permanently.

The photo doesn't reflect it, but that night the surf crashes in with the biggest waves I have ever seen or heard. Every 11th

or 12th one is so big it actually “BOOMS!” When I’m lying in bed the trailer shakes beneath me. Several years ago a large tsunami wiped out the hotels on this beach. The ruins of one can clearly be seen from here so it is disconcerting when that boom shudders through the sand beneath you. Not a peaceful night.

Faro de Bucerias
April 10, 2007

We continued down the coast this morning. Landscape is mostly miles of lush-looking banana and coconut palm plantations. Stopped at several beaches enroute. Same story of extreme surf and dangerous waters.

We had a hard time finding a place to stop for lunch. We can’t really stop at a restaurant in most towns because pulling the trailer, we need too big a parking spot. The taco stands on the outskirts look kind of dicey. If you are on foot you can size them up while wandering past but I hate to stop, have a look, then get in the car and drive away again. Seems awfully rude.

garbageWe kept trying to stop at the side of the road so we could make a sandwich but every time we did the area was a garbage dump that made our stomach turn. Mexicans clean and clean and clean their personal homes and business premises, but they dump garbage out of their cars and trucks and especially at roadside pull-offs. It is disgusting.

The low point of this trip had to be this afternoon. We had not been able to find a place to pull over for lunch that was not strewn with putrid garbage. Continuing down the road, a big truck pulled out in front of us and we quickly realized that it was THE garbage truck. Big black bags of garbage kept spilling off the back, exploding on the road in front of us, rotten crap bouncing off the front of our truck.

We are traveling down the Michoacán Coast – 200km of Mexico’s finest beacheFaro de Buceriass There is only one RV park and it is nearly 400 km south and only has 12 spaces. We have not been having much luck with the RV camps in our guidebook. Too often they are closed and abandoned. So we are hesitant to pull into Playa Azul in the dark only to find that the only RV park is closed or full. And once night comes the park managers pull big chain link gates shut, lock them securely and in many cases, drive away till morning.

So Steve has scoured the LP guide and coFaro de Buceriasme up with some references to “camping possible” at Faro de Bucerias. It sounds like the only thing you can do there is pitch a tent but we decide to check it and it is perfect. A quiet little town with palapas lining the beach. We talk to the proprietress of one of these palapa villages. She says we are welcome to park the trailer in the parking lot, hang our hammock under a palapa and use the clean showers and toilets. All this for 90 pesos.

The ocean view here is magnificent – huge breakers rolling in, the smaFaro de Buceriasll bay we are in framed by gigantic boulders, a perfect setting. The LP guide says you can swim and snorkel here ...absolutely impossible. Even the bravest young bucks are staying out of the water tonight.

We settle in for a most peaceful night ...tomorrow we are off to Zihuatenajo.

 

Next:    Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa

Carolyn Usher

Unless otherwise noted all prices are quoted in US$ or Mexican Pesos. At time of writing, 10 pesos = $1 US or CDN.