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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Banderas Bay

The entire Banderas Bay area has been wonderful. There is a large cruisers community here (especially in La Cruz,) the choices of where to stay and what to do and see here are many, the provisioning is easy and the bus system is simple and inexpensive and it definitely is a great place to have friends or family come and visit.

We began our visit staying in the marina in La Cruz which is NW of Puerto Vallarta. La Cruz is a wonderful small town with a big community of cruisers and a wealth of live music virtually every night of the week. Marina Riviera Nayarit is sparkling new and full of activity. We arrived right before Christmas and stayed through New Years. We caught up with some of the cruisers we had met so far along the way and made some new friends too. They have a weekly cruisers movie night at the amphitheater on the breakwater (so far we made a showing of The Santa Claus and Master and Commander.) and lots of amenities like propane tank pick up and refill, laundry service and of course the very active daily cruisers net.

The cruisers net runs Monday through Saturday at 830am. They welcome new arrivals and offer up every conceivable form of help and information. If you need a part or have a question someone on the net invariably can help you out. They also act as a clearinghouse for the local happenings like dock parties, potlucks and the local live music and restaurant scene. After the net most boats monitor CH 22 which leaves us sort of an open party line for contacts.

From La Cruz it was simple and easy to catch a bus to explore old town PV, or the local suburbs of Nuevo Vallarta, Punta De Mita and Salyulita. It’s also just a short hop by boat to Yelapa or to the islands at Tres Marietas for snorkeling and diving.

It was the perfect place to pick up my friend Barbara for an 8 day visit and I will definitely remember this place when more family comes to visit. While she was here we were able to show her a surprisingly complete slice of the cruising life including a day in downtown Puerto Vallarta, dolphins playing in our bow wake, dozens of Humpback whales , a 25# fish landed , fireworks for the New Year, a beach wipe out landing in our dinghy, an afternoon of snorkeling and even a couple of balmy afternoon naps. Not sure what we might have missed but I hope it all added up enough to get her thinking about her next trip with us…maybe the south pacific?

One of our favorite stops in Banderas Bay was a New Years Eve trip to Yelapa. Yelapa is on the southwest corner of the bay and accessible only by boat. Just for Barbara we found lots of whales on our trip across the bay. As we motored into Yelapa’s bay we were enchanted by the hobbit houses and luxurious Swiss Family Robinson estates.

We were met by Ricardo in his panga as he motored out to offer us his mooring –for a price- and after a bit of haggling he led us further into the bay. Once we were settled Barbara, Bill and I headed into town hoping to find something still open in spite of the holiday. Though most of the town was shut down getting ready for their own family holiday we wandered the winding streets and did eventually find a scrumptious New Years Eve feast –shrimp stuffed chili relleno for Bill and Barbara and grilled shrimp for Kat. The night was topped off by a wonderful fireworks display over the bay at midnight. The locals were firing off aerial bombs from one side of the bay and the small area of hotels across the bay was simultaneously setting off a display of their own. Under a star filled sky in the middle of the bay we sat feeling a bit like targets but bathed in the brilliant purple, silver, red and gold all while keeping an eye on the firework of downtown PV in the distance.

This tiny town was the first place we stopped that made us both Bill and I say….. “wow, I could live here!” The homes built into the rocky hills, the warm welcoming people, the winding paths, the small but close expat community, the clear cool waterfall that tumbled into a deep pool a short walk up into the hills behind town all enchanted us and made us want to keep exploring. The homes along the waterfront did remind me of living like Swiss Family Robinson and the homes the locals lived in along the winding paths of town were all a marvel of engineering enabling them to be placed on top of and around the boulders buried in the hillsides.

The only downside to our trip to Yelapa was the ever present presence of the mighty Pacific. For our first evenings foray into town the seas were calm enough that we could land at the concrete dock and we all slept like babies lulled by the gentle rocking. The next days’ landing was an easy and safe beach landing but by late afternoon the ocean was showing us her true spirit. A beach landing would have been impossible and the night was rocky and sleepless.

In the morning we headed to Punta de Mita. It was a short trip but we got in a great sail. On the way Bill spotted birds diving and feeding in the distance so we detoured and sailed through them. Its quite exciting to sail through the feeding birds but the added benefit is sometimes it means fish for dinner. We managed to land a 25# jack. Not my favorite eating fish…he’s chewy and pretty fishy but it was fun regardless bringing him aboard. In the midst of all that we were joined by dolphins on the bow and they put on a great show for Barbara.

Punta de Mita was memorable for our first real dinghy wipe outs. There was no dinghy dock so we gave it our best for a first attempt and failed rather miserably. On the way in we got damp…nothing to worry about really but a bit embarrassing. Barbara and I took off for awhile and Bill stayed with the dink and studied the waves. When we returned we took a moment to plan our escape. Unfortunately we havn’t gotten the rhythm of things yet and we took several waves right over the bow. One broke completely over my head. Thankfully I had zipped my glasses into a pocket or I would have been down one pair of prescription lenses! On the fourth wave we finally made it out past the breaking water. Luckily the only thing damaged was a bit of our pride. It was too dark to have much of an audience and a little water never hurt anyone. Once back to the boat we all grabbed warm showers and dry clothes and none of us were any the worse for the wear.

The next day we headed out to the islands of Tres Marietas. The Three Marietas are a national park area and very popular for snorkeling, kayaking diving and whale watching. On our way we saw some of the most amazing Humpback behavior we have ever witnessed. It is breeding season here so the males especially are very active. Bill and I have seen some great whale activity in the past around Vancouver Island and in Alaska but this was amazing. We ended up at one point in a small group of boats all watching a pair. The female was very relaxed and just slowly feeding and diving. The big male next to her on the other hand was doing his best to impress her. He was spy hopping, breaching and most amazing of all slapping his tail on the surface. Not just once or twice but dozens of times. He also acted quite aggressive moving in close to the boats even splashing one of the boats hard enough to soak everyone on board. He pushed again and again between the boats in a very pointed statement of “get out of my way.”

We spent one day going to Salyulita by bus. It is a bit touristy but very laid back and sort of boutique-ee. It’s mostly a surfing town and is filled with young people, great for people watching with lots of fruit stands and little restaurants and shops. On our way home from there I saw a man in the side of the road his hands full of little round wire cages. Each cage had a squawking green parrot.

Since the whale watching was so amazing we decided to take our last full day here with Barbara and see if we could find them again. This time we took a boat full of guests. They weren’t as active as on our last visit but everyone seemed to have a good time regardless. At the end of the day we headed into a different part of town for our last couple of days in the bay. We motored in to Paradise Village at about 4pm with a boat full of tired sight seers.

Paradise Village is in Nuevo Vallarta and is part of a private development. It was not our favorite stop but the marina was clean and well managed. Our only problem with it really is that it was so separated from the real Mexico. It is a development of Villas, condos and hotel suites complete with a zoo full of Bengal tigers and colorful parrots. Every hotel and condo unit has security and its impossible toeven walk through their lobby to reach the beach. The marina itself is on a series of canals that wind back into a swampy jungly area that boasts loads of iguanas and even has alligators. We took a dinghy ride up iinto the canals and it was easy to spot the huge reptiles high in the trees. We even saw one small green fellow swimming along in the murk. Pretty gutsy of him I think what with the other citizens lurking nearby. We didn’t actually see any alligators but we found one muddy bank covered with footprints and at one point there was something swimming below us in the murk! I carefully kept my feet and hands inside the dink and Bill made some attempt to not be silhouetted against the dark waters. Eventually one canal we chose got so shallow we were churning up mud with the outboard enough that we began to plug the water outlet. We decided it wouldn’t be too wise to get stuck out in the canals and have to try and drag the boat back through the murky waters ala’ Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart when the African Queen got stuck in the swamp. We returned with all our fingers and toes and got the outboard running right again in no time. Tomorrow we head south towards Barra de Navidad and hope to catch up with some of our friends. kat

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