Over two weeks have flown by since the last post, the sunshine is back after a rainy beginning to 2013 here in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, followed by alternating sunny and overcast days, and much cooler temperatures, sometimes only into the low 70’s.
The plaza in La Cruz during the rain, with a large, spreading Huanacaxtle tree.
The Mexican state of Nayarit includes beaches fronted by mangroves, estuaries, and palms, tropical deciduous forests spreading mostly lush and green up the mountains, except at the end of the dry season in the spring, when brown becomes a more common color, and then the mountains, rising up to 7000 feet above sea level inland, with deep gorges. Jan’s birthday week found us exploring all these ecological areas in Nayarit, getting away from the marina, and more in tune with the world of rocks and plants and animals. Since childhood a connection with the natural world on a regular basis is a necessity for me, like being on the water sailing, or in the water swimming is a necessity for Nikk. John Muir and many others extoll the healing, rejuvenating aspects of the natural world, especially wilderness. Even though we were seldom in true wilderness during these two weeks, we were off “the beaten path” on many occasions. We traveled by tour bus up to San Sebastian del Oeste, a 400-year-old silver-mining town at 4600′ in the mountains above Puerto Vallarta. The cobblestoned streets led to little hotels, restaurants, stores, schools, and many residences marching up the hillsides in this town of about 800 people, with the church and town square at the center.
Walking along the terrace of the hotel in the square early one morning.
San Sebastian’s elevation is high enough for pines which resemble Ponderosa Pines to grow and flourish. We were surprised to see colorful Western Tanagers in the trees, with their red heads, yellow breasts, and black and white wings. We’re used to seeing them all throughout the west in summer. After a walk up into the piney woods, we headed down a barely visible path along a stream, finding fenced plantations of banana and papaya trees. At the end of the path about 2 miles from town we found the Hacienda Jalisco, on the site of a silver mine. A brilliant red male summer tanager with his dull yellow female perched high in a tree, giving us birdwatching excitement and stiff necks. A friendly large dog followed us back up the airstrip while we spotted many Social Flycatchers (that’s really their name) and other birds perching in trees and bushes.
That night the seventy plus people gathered in a hotel courtyard for dinner followed by rock and blues music from ten musicians gathered for the occasion by Philo (see the previous blog). Even after hiking for several hours we still didn’t have much appetite for dinner because we found the Paraise Restaurant next to our hotel earlier in the day. The proprietor, Isaac Cueto Pena, not only provided us with two absolutely delicious meals, but gave us gratis an avocado/shrimp appetizer, two shots of tequila, and one shot of ricea, the local drink made from agave, which is about 180 proof. I think I was too inebriated to take a picture of the meal, so here is a picture of a trimmed agave root (?) from the ricea factory near San Sebastian
Birdwatching at San Sebastian was surprisingly sparse, but two days later we went on a tour with April of Wave House to the Pureto Vallarta Botanical Gardens, 20 acres and 3000 plants species, including many orchids, bromeliads and gigantic strangler fig trees. Here are some of the birds we viewed while there: Varied Bunting, Grayish Saltator, San Blas Jay, Yellow-Winged Cacique, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Russet-crowned Motmot, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Golden-naped Woodpecker, Cinnamon Hummingbird, and a Jalisco Hermit Hummingbird. The latter bird was nowhere to be found in any bird book until I went to www.pvbotancalgardens.com and saw a picture and name of the hummingbird we saw. Our friend Jane from Midnight Blue went along, and couldn’t find the hummer in her book either. These particular Hermits live only in the neighboring states of Jalisco, Nayarit and Colima.
Yellow-winged Cacique and San Blas Jay at the fruit feeder
Altar with orchids in the greenhouse
The exploring continued after our return We decided to see what we could see from the hill above “downtown” La Cruz, and walked up and up to the top, passing many large homes in various states of interrupted construction. I think perhaps many Americans and Canadians began their construction projects and then did not have the funds to continue, since many houses looked like the construction ended several years ago. Because of the rainy season here in the summer, concrete construction that is unprotected starts to rapidly deteriorate. At the end of the road a trail plunged down a hillside with just enough trees to hold onto as we skied down the trail in our sandals back to a dirt road that led to a few Mexican casas with families sitting in the yards. I think they were surprised to see us as we walked by. Back on a paved road we found three generations of women selling pastries from a roadside cart. So we bought two slices of a flan/cheesecake dessert to replenish all the calories we’d burned on the hike, and give us enough energy to make it back another mile or more to the boat in the marina. There are many roads to explore here that go way back up into the hills, with waterfalls and hidden pools, according to locals.
La Cruz has an amazing music scene. Nikk won a dinner at the Black Forest Restaurant when he was in a paddle race with his kayak. Here is a picture of Nikk goofing off after paddling hard:
The Black Forest Restaurant serves delicious German food, and the Friday night we were there it was packed, because Latcho and Andrea were playing their samba/flamenco music, music which “comes from the soul, goes to the heart”. Check them out at www.latchoandrea.com. Every other Saturday we go to The Octopus’s Garden restaurant and gallery of Huichol Art to hear our friends Alfredo and Zoe, the Mango Duo. You can find them at www.myspace.com/alfredoandzoe They play flamenco music that makes you want to get up and dance, plus samba and even original, dreamy tunes like “Blue Star”. On You Tube you can type in Alfredo and Zoe, and find a video of them playing with Bryan Savage, a local flute and sax player who is a favorite here and for miles around.
Last Saturday Bryan put together a band to play at The Taste of La Cruz, held up on the malecon of the marina. Art, crafts, food, music, and some very entertaining folks. Of course I have to include a picture taken that night of Nikk and some new friends, who perform at La Lunes, in Bucerias on Wednesday nights.
We said goodbye to a good cruising friend, Greg on Foreign Affair, a 1975 Valiant 40, down from B.C. He and another friend Chuck from Vancouver Island are headed south to El Salvador. Greg had been in the marina for about a month, just two boats down from our slip, so we had many dinners together up in town at the curbside restaurant, Los Sillas Rojas (The Red Chairs), named for the red plastic tables and chairs out on the cobblestones. They have some of the best quesadillas we’ve ever eaten. When you meet fellow cruisers you can bond very quickly, finding common ground from the specialized rigors, tests, and repairs necessary for cruising, and sharing the knowledge of boats, ports, dangers and places that have to be experienced.
I’ve been helping lead a yoga class here at the marina which meets six days a week at 8am. After nine sessions I’m ready to turn the class back over to Lee and take off on a two week sailing trip with Nikk. Even with all the traveling and hiking, restaurants and visiting with friends, we have sailed on at least four occasions the past two weeks. When we took people out sailing last week we’d just said “I hope we get to see some whales….” when 20 feet off our port side a mature humpback whale appeared, and seemed to be diving right under the boat. “Hang on, everyone” I yelled, but it turned 90 degrees and swam by right beside the boat. A very exciting close call.
We’ve seen dolphins several times as well as lots of boobies, frigatebirds, pelicans and numerous fish of all sizes.
We’re going to sail north up the coast if the weather and winds cooperate, so the next blog might be from San Blas or Chacala depending on internet connection. The new TELCEL chip in the iPad is working wonderfully, so my internet connection gives me pleasure instead of headaches. Thanks for reading this long blog!