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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.