Random Reasons to Love Mexico

The raw water pump on our engine has progressed from working flawlessly (after a bit of fixing up when I bought the boat) to dripping slightly to pretty much having a small stream of water exiting the weep hole while the engine is running.  Being in La Paz, with a strong local support group and multiple marine stores and repair shops, it seemed like a good place to tackle the problem.   After my initial inspection I though just tightening down the bolts and cleaning up the surfaces a gasket sat between might do the trick, but alas, it was not that simple.  The next step was tracking down a rebuild kit, which I found back in the US for $110.  Which didn’t really solve me problem of getting the pump fixed quickly so we could get out of town.  I also found directions for rebuilding the pump online, and it could be easy, or… it could get complicated if things didn’t come apart and slide back together easily.  I’m all about self sufficiency but building a home made bearing press didn’t sound all that fun.

So I put out a call for information on the morning net, and received the name of a shop that worked on pumps along with the stellar directions “On the street next to the Chedraui” (large grocery store Jenn and I have become fond of).  Armed with these directions and the pump in my backpack, off I went.  The directions proved remarkably good, and I only walked around an extra block or so because of my own confusion, but once I got on the right street I spotted a sign and even knew that seeing the word Bomba on the sign was a good thing (pump for those of you who know less Spanish that I do).  I asked the man behind the counter if he spoke English – he responded “A little.”  I was able to tell him I spoke a little Spanish, and he basically said we’ll work it out.  Sure enough, with the visual of the pump, some words in Spanish, probably more on his part in English, we were able to establish that they could fix it, I was to return tomorrow to pick it up, and it should cost just over half of the cost of the rebuild kit.  Not including somehow getting the the kit to Mexico.

As I returned to the boat, it occurred to me I had left a very necessary part of my engine with someone with nothing more than my name written on scrap of paper and a promise of it being ready tomorrow.  And based on my experience in Mexico so far, I wasn’t the least bit concerned about this.

Sure enough, the pump was ready the next day, rebuilt, polished up a bit, and priced right at their estimate.  It didn’t take long to get it bolted back onto the engine and all the hoses put back in place.  Fingers thinking about crossing, I fired it.  Not a drop of water running out!  Hours of engine running later, it is working great.  The engine even seems to be running a bit cooler, although I didn’t think it was leaking enough water to effect the temperature.  Still, I’m not unhappy with this added benefit.

Almost seems a shame to put this shiny pump on…

…/ our not so clean engine. Yes, it is on the project list.

So, engine fixed up, we should be on our way out of La Paz, but a day or so later still sitting in the anchorage I heard some commotion on the Malecon.  It aroused my curiosity, but not Jenn’s, so I took a solo trip to shore to investigate.  There was a small parade starting, although certainly not on par with the Mexican Revolution Day parade we saw on our last visit to La Paz.  Unsure of the reason for the parade, I walked along the route and finally encountered street vendor giving out popcorn samples who offered me one in English.  I took him up on it and asked the reason for the parade.  He thought for a moment and replied “blood donation.”  Hmm, not something we have parades for back home, but no reason not to enjoy it.

A little further down the road, I found a stage and people starting to fill in the chairs set up in front of it.  I radioed Jenn and told her I might be awhile longer, and waited for the show.  It turned out to be a bit of a Mexican variety show, with singers, traditional dancers, and act of modern dancers, and even a local cheerleading squad.  Since I had thought to throw my SLR camera in my pack before heading ashore, I commenced with the picture taking.  About midway through the show and tried, in my apparently worst Spanish, to ask the MC how many more acts there were going to be.  She responded “You can ask in English.”  I guess I better break out those Spanish lessons I have on my computer.  After the told me we were about halfway through, she asked about my photography, and if I would be willing to share my pictures with her.  Of course!  I stayed for the rest of the show enjoying both the acts and the photography.  Still not giving up on the attempt to communicate with locals, I was successfully able to ask another woman taking pictures during one of the dance groups if her daughter was performing.

I don’t usually do this but based on our current somewhat less than great internet service, and a desire not to abuse what is somewhat of a gift of free access, here is a link to my pictures from the show which I uploaded under better internet access.

Eventually the show finished, and I headed back to the dinghy dock.  But my entertainment for the evening wasn’t quite over as I stumbled across a group promoting one of the candidates for president in the upcoming Mexican elections.  The political rallies here are bit different.  They gather a bunch of teenagers and a DJ at an intersection with a stop sign, and the kids dance, wave flags and signs, and hand out free swag.  I scored and umbrella and a couple LED lights that will work better than anything I have on the boat for works lights, and there is pretty much no mistaking me for a Mexican voter.  But if I could, Enrique Pena Nieto just made a compelling play for my vote (not that I remembered the name, but it on all the goodies I snagged).

Bucerias Street Fair, a photo essay

I think I can see my house.

I’ve had a hard time getting a chance to upload some pictures from a street fair in Bucerias, the next down south of La Cruz where we are staying.  Jenn and I took a bus down and wandered around for a few hours.  I think we missed the real party with the locals, as we had to take the last bus back around 9:00 pm (and there was some concern we had missed the last bus for a few minutes…).  Still, it was fun to check out the vendors and carnival booths.  Somehow not winning a prize when you’ve spend .40 cents is a lot easier to live with.  Plus, the prizes were mostly not cheap stuffed animals.  One booth even had bottles of alcohol as prizes, but you had to step up and spend about $1.60 to try and win that.  So, in one of my least wordy posts over, here are some pictures from the evening.

A senorita does some shopping.

Jenn kills some time sharpening her Fruit Ninja skills while we wait for the fair to get going

I'm a little sketchy on the mechanics of this ride.

I'm not sure this a licensed image of Winnie the Pooh.

Just some typical booths.

The sign does not encourage my business.

The futures so bright...

I love Mexican snacks.

Colorful local outfits.

These are prizes I would want to win.

A vendor arranging her wares just so.

A focused young motorcycle rider.

Apparently riding trains doesn't take as much focus as motorcycles.

I'm not sure I would look happy riding this ride either...

...especially when the attendant has to push the coaster to assist the start.

Someone is enjoy the ride!

Several tries did not yield a winning dart throw, but at least it was cheap and you could win cookies instead of cheap stuffed animals.

Some of the trinkets for sale, and my attempt to be artistic photographing them.

A young markswoman takes aim.

When I said full bar, I wasn't kidding.

Somehow people rolled marbles to try to win prizes. I need to learn a lot more Spanish to ask how this worked.

Our tasty dinner being cooked.

Jenn waits with anticipation, and a pittance of Pesos to pay for two hamburgers.

While probably tasty, we ordered food cooked to order.

A double decker trampoline. The mind kind of boggles. If I ever return to Burning Man, bringing one of these would be on my list.

A vendor demonstrates a toy - whether or not that is helping I'm not sure.

Some fresh doughnuts and a bus ride home complete the evening.

And that completes our evening at the street fair.  I’m off to finish some boat projects, and then we will start prepping to head south down the coast for a bit.  We are having a wonderful time in La Cruz, but it feels like time to head out, and we will be heading back by on our way north for the summer so we can catch back up with our favorite taco stands and the Huanacaxtle Cafe then.

Welcome to the Jungle

Just another jungle\ocean view from our hike.

I’m not sure her inspiration, but Nicole on Bella Star somehow overcame cruiser lethargy, breaking the chain of happy hours and taco stands to organize a jungle hike with a local resident that promotes her tours on the morning net. April (under the call sign Wave House) is expat from the good ol USA who now resides in La Cruz de Huancasxtle, and has several available tours she can take groups on. Nicole wisely chose a jungle hike, got a group together to fill the van, after much effort found a day we were all free. So on a Monday night we did something I wasn’t sure we would remember how to do, and set an alarm clock. Luckily years of needing to get up for work and engrained the skill into our DNA, and were up and had a pack ready for a day hike in time to head to shore to meet up with the crews from Bella Star, Hello World and Panache.

April picked us up in a Toyota van that isn’t sold in the US, and off we went through downtown Puerto Vallarta, to a river mouth meeting Banderas Bay a bit south of Playa Mismaloya. While driving us there April filled us in the history of the area, and on details of the local architecture. Once we arrived at the trail head, I managed to get my hiking boots on and after a little effort managed to the laces. I think I’ve been wearing flip flops a little too much lately. Zach from Panache braved the hike in flip flops, as they are the official footwear of cruisers.

The hike took us along a trail that generally followed the shore line of Banderas Bay. At first we passed a variety of houses along the trail, but after reaching the end of the little inlet the river flowed out of the houses thinned out and the jungle closed in. April continued informing us on a wide variety of topics, from land ownership issues in Mexico to narcotic flowers in the jungle that make hallucinogen tea. Other details included historic facts about the area, the coconut palm oil industry that has died out, and with some questions from me a rundown on the Mexican political system. All in all, April has a great knowledge base about the area and Mexico and is a great guide. As an avid surfer she also gave us the scoop on some local surf breaks, including the one in front of a house we later hiked by that she had rented a few years previous.

The river mouth at the start of our hike.

Don't tell Minion we pay attention to other cats.

Where we live when we aren't on the boat.

This would make me feel at home if I ever own a house.

Some beautiful scenery. And the jungle and ocean.

Much to my surprise, we didn't encounter armed cartel guards at this house.

The trail meandered up and down, into the jungle, then back down to the beach. We were in a very unique area of dry rain forest, not duplicated until Costa Rica. We didn’t see much in the way of wildlife, just a few birds, but the topography, flora and fauna and shoreline were amazing scenery. Palm trees, banana plants and even a tree know as a Gringo tree (it has red bark that peels off) along with underbrush and thick patches of vegetation passed by as we began to feel the burn of hiking after weeks of boat life. We do a fair bit of walking around when we dinghy to town, but our legs were unused to the rigors of hiking and I think we all got in a pretty good workout. The trail would take us down to to stretches of beach where we occasionally had to dodge incoming waves or scamper over some rocks, between smooth patches of golden sand.

April advised one at a time on these walkways. I chose to heed her advice.

One of these garned it's nickname because of its red color and peeling. The other wears a lot of sunscreen.

We did see jungle flowers, but I'm only posting one picture of them.

You would think a cruiser could time waves better. Maybe being back in Seattle has put Christy out of practice.

If all trees had bark like this, there would be a lot less broken juveninle arms.

On one stretch of beach hiking, April led us to an abandoned resort. Apparently it was only accessible by boat and during a botched Panga landing the owner had broke his back. He vowed never to return, and the resort is now a rather interesting ruins. There are still stone beds with tile headboards in several places, lacking mattresses and walls to the rooms. There was a small tower with stairs winding around the outside that I braved climbing, leading to an almost castle like turret at the top. We paused to scatter and explore before continuing down the beach. Nearby was a small cabin that is popular with Muslim honeymooners, as the remote location allows the brides to sunbathe sans burquas.

I can see why a panga landing here would go awry.

Lizards really do loose their tails! (No I didn't pull it off)

I need a macro lens, so this will have to do for a close up.April, our tour guide on the right in a picture taken from the tower I climbed.The jungle is taking back over, but we may go restart the resort.

Zach gets a little personal with the ants.

For reasons only mom will understand this reminds me of my childhood.

After a rather remote stretch of jungle and beach we began to approach a semblance of civilization, walking through a beach front resort and a new large mansion complete with tennis courts and a volleyball spot located next to the beach. We finally arrived at some Palapas where we stopped for Michaladas and lunch. Probably my only negative comment for the days experience is the restaurant was a bit pricey, and not that good compared to most of the meals we’ve eaten here. Of course, with no road leading to the beach at Los Animos where we stopped, there is kind of a captive audience of you find yourself there. April bought a slice of Queso pie from a lady selling pie slices, and broke off pieces to share. A rather unique and tasty variety of pie that I’ll have to try again if I find it.

I'm just a sucker for animal pictures.

If this was just out over the water, I would really feel like I was on a tropical island.

Sorry for the blury photo but it was taken quickly to capture Nicole cavorting.

Have to give the dogs some respect too.

After sitting for a spell, it was a little hard to roll back into hiking mode, but after the first few stiff steps we got back in the swing of it, and continued to follow the shoreline to the next little town of Quimixto. This is a rather small and poor town for a couple hundred. Most of the residents have horses, and take turns having a day where they rent their horses to tourists for a ride up to a waterfall. I can’t say I didn’t consider the 150 pesos fee for a ride, but since no one else wimped out, I sucked it up and headed up to the waterfall. I will say moving around on a boat does not stress a bum knee quite as much as hiking up and down a trail for a long hike. I probably shouldn’t have played so much soccer on a surgically reconstructed knee, but these are the foolish mistakes we make in our adulthood. About the time we started up the trail to the waterfall I recognized the trail. In several previous visits to Puerto Vallarta we braved the time share sales pitch in exchange for freebie tickets to things like a booze cruise that stopped at the beach we had hiked to for a much shorter hike up to the waterfall. It didn’t take long to reach it, and much to my surprise there was now a little bar\restaurant with tables on both sides of the river, connected with a small footbridge. We were told rather briskly we couldn’t go up to platforms, prime viewing spot for the waterfall, without a purchase. The prices were quite high, and we weren’t thrilled about less than welcoming tone, especially as were the only ones there at the time. Since the river was not private, Zach and I waded up the waterfall and swam around a bit. Last time I did some cliff jumping but somehow in the neighborhood of 15-20 years later, and not on a booze cruise, I wasn’t feeling the bravery this time.

Hey Macarena! (Yes, that is a veryinside joke)

I think this dog has mad Wizard skills.

Just more ho-hum scenery.

All they need is some Coronas between them.

After enjoying the scenery for a bit, we entered the home stretch and hiked downhill to the beach. We stopped to pet a couple cute local dogs, a Chihuahua, and a mutt that looked like a golden lab with 4″ legs that enjoyed a good belly rub. Once at the beach, April arranged for a Panga to take us back to the van while we arranged for a round of cold Pacificos from a local tienda. After a rather tenuous drop from a fixed dock to a floating boat bobbing up and down in the Pacific swell, we were all aboard with no disasters. We sat back and enjoyed the propulsion of a large outboard engine instead of our own two legs, and quickly motored past the stretch of jungle and beach we had just hiked, picking out places we had seen on our hike. The Panga made a smooth beach landing, we all hopped out and after a quick stop and some sketchy port-a-johns loaded back into the van to head home. April took us on a loop highway around PV for a change in scenery, and discussed the hospitals and health care in Mexico on the way back (as well as some of other tours, which do sound tempting).

Aaron displays some serious balance so he doesn't step in 2" deep water.

I'm thinking about adding Rule #3 to my personal life.

At long last, a waterfall. I used the cold water to cool my burning muscles.

It was a great day out, nice to get away from the boats for a bit and see some different scenery. We all though April was a great tour guide and would recommend her anyone in the area that wants to take a trip out of La Cruz. A few days later I think my legs are mostly recovered, although I’m still a little curious if I can find the spot on the beach that supposedly had hour massages for $20. Of course, that would involve another walk on the beach toward Buscerias. Maybe I should have brought a bicycle!

Would you ride this borro?

Two fisting, doggy style.

In some other brief news, some good friends have finally caught up with us, Leif and Jackie on Dodger Too, and Rob on Wings of the Dawn. While they don’t have burgers to die for like The Shack in La Paz, we’ve started to headquarter at the Huancaxtle Cafe for their 10 peso Happy Hour draft beer and tasty chicken wings. And my quest for a new pressure switch for galley and head water pump was successful, as was my installation of it using some 3M 5200 sealant after the removal of the old switch somehow left no threads in the pump body to screw the new switch into. It never ceases to amaze me how a job that really involves 15 minutes of actual work can turn into a 3 day project of finding a part, gluing in a part that should screw in, waiting for things to dry, hooking things several times, letting the part dry some more, and finally having to rewire one of the connections. It makes it so much more satisfying with the water pump actually stops running when you turn off the faucet.