Friday, January 31, 2014

Adios a Paraíso

Gracie, ready to roll
10 AM. Three hours ago I told Ronco, “This moment, fishing with you in the panga, is a memory for me like a treasure; in my city, in the next  week, I think of this moment--the sun, the bay, the fish, and you--my boss.” He laughed, with pleasure, I think. Who wouldn’t?

Two days left and it's already like we're not completely here. Our idyl has become metered--more choices than time. Rather than brood on this scarcity, I'll take my favorite dog for a run over stumps and stones along the path to the point and up to entrada privada of a boutique resort. 

Turkey vulture practicing his moon walk
12 PM. Nothing like popping endorphins in paradise. Add to that an avocado salad and you’ve got something with legs. I'll haul Corona empties up to Tencia’s for the bottle deposit, last shop and village ramble. But no hurry, stop downstairs for a chat with Solana, see if she needs anything from the store.

Pterodactyl-esque Frigate Birds
3 PM. On the balcony, watching the easy pace of Nelson’s work on Siete Trucha project, and adopting the lazy manner of a turkey vulture when my wife harkens to the tweeting call of a black hawk. We trace its location above our near ridge, among aforementioned vultures and similarly sized frigate birds, all wheeling black angles distinct against a baby blue sky.

Unloading river sand from
pack horses 
The frigate bird’s silhouette is scary--resembles a refugee from Jurassic Park. Another distinction: greatest wingspan to body-length ratio of any bird in the world. Nonpareil gliders, but lack the ability to gain altitude from takeoff, so imagine the consequences of that...Breaking news: A two foot skate is caught just off the pier; young boys gather to gingerly release the hook, engage in some experimental cruelty, poke and prod the fish back into surf.

6 PM. Balcony, now in the shade. News flash: two federales in navy blue uniforms, guns holstered and back-slung, stride over little bridge just below us. It’s been several weeks since we last saw them--the only organized law enforcement in our pueblo, must be their biweekly round. Nelson and helper have mixed concrete, fashioned rebar, moved rocks and dug base for Siete Trucha steps. Still working. Time to ready ourselves for taking Ana Rosa and Ronco out to Ray’s for dinner. 

9 PM. Balcony, after dinner, pangas below at their moorings, bobbing in the surf, night-lit by La Lampa. It's seldom, in my experience, that five more good-natured and fun-loving people have been gathered together, even if we don't all speak the same language. What a fine ending, with the clip-clopping of a late-working pack train adding a distinctive Yelapanese touch to our dinner. Thanks, Ray, for the bacon-wrapped shrimp and cheese-stuffed steak, and Ana Rosa loved your mango margarita.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Reviewing Our Local Grocery Stores

"Peedy's" photo-enhanced
Closest tienda to our little place goes by the name of "Peedy’s", near as I can tell a gringo corruption of the owner’s nickname--Pirri (another  of Ronco’s brothers). It’s our 7-11. We go there early or late for beer, bagels, or the canned milk we put in coffee. 

"Peedy's" is too dark to see much that’s on the shelves, and produce bins are often slim pickins, except for fruit flies, but one thing you can count on is a smile from whomever is at the counter. "Peedy's" front stoop is also a local hangout for hombres wanting to kick back a cerveza or three, and BS. 

Next further out is "Teesha’s"--a gringo-ish devolution of Leticia. It’s the spiffiest and best stocked tienda in the pueblo, but also the least friendly. We don’t go there except for the vacuum-packed coffee, and on the rare occasions we want to feel like clumsy foreign buttinskys.

Tencia as La Suprema: she's such a cutup
Our favorite tienda is "Tensha’s"; it’s numero uno mainly because of the ebullient personality of Hortencia, its sort-of eponymous owner. She’s the hoot who, from the time I mistakenly asked for chamomile instead of butter, exuberantly, and educationally, recited, “Manzanilla, mantequilla. Manzanilla, mantequilla, etc,” every time I came in her store...maybe you'd have to be there to appreciate the whimsy, though.

Mexican pinball: without a flipper,
what's the point?
"Tensha’s" is an even more popular hang-out than "Peedy’s". I often see Silverio there playing the Mexican slot machine, and a pinball at the door (without flippers, alas) attracts all genders and ages. Hortencia holds court and pushes the homemade, and the all too frequently sampled-by-me, pies. Plus she's got the lowest price on El Jimador, and best selection of cacahuates in town.

Go Tencia!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Do You Eat Meat?

At this point, I'm cowering next to a concrete pillar, aware that the beast's
right rear hoof is braced for who-knows-what mayhem.
First I hear braying snorts and then see an arresting sight as I StepMaster up a narrow concrete path, so steep it’s corrugated to allow footholds. Not twenty feet ahead and above me a big black, angry steer blocks the way.

Cuidado!” one of the attendant cowboys shouts in warning.

Wannabe bull stiffens and snorts again, more loudly.

I brace myself against a post, eye rusted barbed wire curled below, and calculate chances of escaping injury by jumping down that way (”Is my tetanus shot still up to date?”) instead of standing my ground next to, but unfortunately not behind, the concrete shield. 

Odds not good--better to hope the downhill caballero keeps the rope taut enough to prevent the steer from lunging my direction. 

It’s tense for some minutes. The dogs get involved. We all escape injury.  

As I dart past--as much darting as one can do, going up three feet for every four horizontal--I meet a fellow coming down. He had been delayed by the bullish brouhaha as well.

¿Tu comes carne?--Do you eat meat?” he jokingly asks.

“Si, claro,” I reply.

Ahí está tu cena--There’s dinner.”


Yelapa students see these values on the face of each low riser as they go up the steps to their school: Love, Respect, Honesty, Equality... Amor, Respeto, Honestidad, Igualidad...

La amistad, el tesoro mas valioso”, or ”Friendship, the most valuable treasure” is inscribed along the base of the pedestal above which the school’s flagpole rises. This value is affirmed and reflected with the many “Hola, amigos” that greet me on village rambles.

Similarly inclusive values are promoted in the words of Benito Juarez that adorn the ledge at a scenic viewpoint above the playa-- ”Respecting the rights of all people leads to peace.” 

I’m sure these same values were reinforced 50 years ago when Ronco and Ana Rosa were attending school, but mostly by family and peers, for they each only had two years in the classroom--first and second grade. 

Not to get all sociological, but we’ve noticed perhaps a consequence of this minimal education among the older residents of the pueblo--verbal distinctions (the hoary “contrast and compare” of my former classroom) leading to strategies of classification are not much practiced. We see a whale on the horizon, point it out, ask “Qué tipo de ballena?”, and are met with a shrug and “Una ballena.”

A tree
The same goes when I ask about a type of tree, certain birds, or even less common fish. 

According to Ana Rosa, who has some feelings about this, higher education, according to her padre, was only for the boys in the family, and then only if they had the wherewithal to send the young man to Puerto Vallarta. Her father probably had the connections to arrange for schooling, and did for her male sibling, but with Ana Rosa was not so inclined.

At our dinner conversation she went on the reflect that the padres in those days a half century ago were generally hard and unsmiling, reflecting the difficulty of their life. That characterization, she and Ronco agreed, does not hold true today. Life is mucho más fácil with technological and sociological advancement, and an uneasy embrace of tourism.

Back in the day, though, if you wanted to schmooze with una amiga, you had to walk the up and down path, skipping over rocks. Today: cell phone. The consequence, of course, of this change in habit as well as diet, is that few are flaco (slender) as everyone was then, and that diabetes is now not at all uncommon. Same old sad song--you see it on Indian reservations back in the States.  Hell, you see it everywhere. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Coconut Palm Poem

El Sol has risen over the near ridge, 
Silhouetting coconut palms 
That each look like a
Lime-colored explosion or 
Stop-motion firework.
Look at it long enough, and
it all starts to shimmy-shake

Stiletto fronds
Swoon at the top 
Of an improbably
Long and slender trunk,
And shiver reflections
Of the morning sun,

Every single palm,
In all its three sixty glory,
Giving a personal shout out
To distinguish itself
From the crumpled quilt of 
Other, more subtle greenery,

And only then
Do you think of the nut. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Muy Primitivo and Not

“Night of the Iguana”, the movie, was released 50 years ago. It was filmed near Puerto Vallarta, and the brouhaha surrounding its production is popularly credited with PV’s rapid growth to international vacation destination. For many subsequent years, the movie’s director, John Huston, had a retreat just up the coast from our own little village. 

JH at home
Huston’s pad at Las Caletas, and Yelapa, are both located on Cabo Corrientes, a cape that sticks out into the Pacific Ocean like a big fat thumb. Most of this huge area is one of only a handful of comunidads indigenas in the country, each with legal status like United States Indian reservations. One big difference: unlike in the US, the indigenous people here were never occupied by European conquistadors. Cortes came and then backed off. 

That was 500 years ago. The upshot of this history is that the land here has always been held collectively. 

There is no private ownership of land by anyone, even its indigenous residents, though it is possible for families to occupy and claim land by using or cultivating it, and then by buying and selling it. Outsiders, however, may not buy or claim any land here at all.*

You can imagine the crimp that’s put on development.

As with any long-inhabitated and isolated area, everyone in the Cabo is connected by maybe only 2 or 3 degrees of Kevin Tocino, at most. There are a half dozen prominent families to whom almost all of the habitantes are connected by blood or marriage, or at least claim tenuous relation. With Ana Rosa and Ronco you have a marriage between two branches of the same well-established clan.

Our gracious hosts had us down to dinner last night, making an affectionate big deal over us eating the same pescado I’d caught just that morning. Ana Rosa marinaded the bonito in white wine vinegar and lime, then poached it with tomatoes, onions and peppers. Magnífico

Chillin' like a villain
She also told us stories about life here in the days when they were young and all the movie stars were just discovering sleepy little Puerto Vallarta. That’s when Ronco’s padre was making the day-long trip into PV by rowboat. The bouncing half-hour panga ride today may seem primitive by big city standards, but it’s a huge connectivity leap in fifty years.

Iggy Country
One thing that hasn’t changed since before Christ was a caballero is the primitive lizard that gave rise to Tennessee William’s play and John Huston’s movie. I’d never associated iguanas with their tree-dwelling habit, but there they were in all their scaly, weird-shit glory, this past sábado on my ramble al puente. One of the many friendly locals pointed them out to me and explained that their favorite árbol is the copiously--hazardously--thorned pochote tree. Look at those lizardy suckers--they’re BIG, make Godzilla look like some cheap knockoff! Muy primitivo.

Monday, January 20, 2014

12th Man Report: Tropical Outpost

12th Man gathering Jungle Gods' support 
I had a date with the boys from Spokane to watch the Seahawks/49ers game last night at Gloria’s. After a desultory first half I knew I needed to do something to bring up the energy. I settled with the bar and told the boys I was headed upriver, over the puente to Luis's place--El Manguito. 

As I walked the dark path through the jungle I invoked its primitive, powerful gods to aid my team.

Each of us doing whatever was in our 12th Man hearts, together with Richard Sherman, we got 'er done. Go Hawks!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Quinceañera at the Casino

Outside the Casino people are having fun
Isis Hanahy had her quinceañera last night and it was a big blowout. Hundreds of people crammed the Casino and more milled on the fringes, drinking, laughing, and running into old friends. Incoming pangas had been crowded all day, bringing guests from PV and beyond. All over the pueblo city-dressed Mexicans were asking for directions. Upriver, even past the puente (bridge), I ran into straggles of offlanders here for the event.

Sr. Garcia--a man who has what my wife calls, "some serious gravitas"--was behind the scenes inside the casino, his presence guaranteeing mucho pesos had been spent. The day before, I’d happened on a moto idling at his casa. Two lockers of carne were being delivered, announced by a chico, holding up by its horns the severed head of a brahma bull, dripping blood on Garcia’s tiled doorstep. 

Party decorations and fancy clothes inside the Casino
When I dropped by the Casino about 10 pm, the meat had yet to be served but cerveza was going by the case. Dozens of long and florally arranged tables occupied half the building; the remaining space was a dance floor. The quinceañera’s court was at a dais, lit by strands of strobing purple lights. Two wall-size screens cycled slides of Isis’s early life, moving quickly to the main event: moist-lip fashion shots shamelessly showcasing her fifteen-year-old pulchritude. 

Music throbbed throughout the pueblo most of the night, increasing in volume for the final round of dances just before first light. This morning there were still stumbling drunks around the muelle, either mumbling or talking too loud, waiting for hangovers to take hold. It'll be a slow day today in old Yelapa-ville.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Back to Quebec

The “sculpture” being admired by Viviana’s madre, a friendly lady I chatted up at the muelle, is actually a functional ornament built of plywood to display exactly 15 cakes for a young lady’s quinceañera. The big blowout celebrating Viviana’s fifteenth birthday was last month. 

The madre (I’ll call her Maria) particularly likes the style of this escultura; it reminds her of a tree, and her casa is set among several distinctive arboles.

Tambien, como un arbol de una familia,” I opined. She graciously agreed, with a smile.

Maria was also attracted to the name of the pastilleria (cakeshop) from which she ordered the pastils y escultura. We agreed it was unusual for being in Puerto Vallarta--”Quebec”.  Like in Canada.

The escultura is purposefully painted brown to allow colorful contrasting ornaments added to the taste of the quinceañera.  “The cakes were all beautiful, and very rich,” Maria reminisced. Now their rented holder is going back to Quebec, via panga.

Thanks to Susan Pasko, local celebrity chef at Cafe Bahia for providing information and sparking my interest in the subject of this post.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Silverio's Gate

Silverio, at his gate (that's a shy turkey vulture in the background, over Silverio's right hombro)
In a complicated scheme to forestall insensitive development, some of the local gringos bought the leasehold on Siete Trucha--Number 7, Trout Way--a beachfront shack across the courtyard from Casa de Ana Rosa. Of course one of the first things you need to do with a new property is secure it, and for that they required a good gate. 

Siete Trucha, with Silverio on the job
Cafe Bahia is right next to Siete Trucha, also owned by Ana Rosa, and for at least a dozen years has been operated by a local celebrity chef, NYC-born, French-trained Susan, one of the environmental defenders mentioned above. All gates at the cafe were made years ago by local craftsman, now emeritus, Silverio. He was called in for the Siete Trucha job as well.

I spoke with Silverio this morning, telling him first, in gringo lingo, “El puerto es muy amable a mis hijos,” which I thought might poetically express, “The gate is very pleasant to my eyes,” but I substituted hijos--sons--for ojos--eyes. Oh well, I’m sure it could have been much worse and at least I communicated friendly intentions. There were a lot more, similarly mangled no doubt, expressions of appreciation I shared, as he kindly assented to a photograph.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Full Moon Out Kitchen Window

La vida es muy buena.

The sea has been rowdy today with extreme tides.

Poor fishing this morning, but took home one nice little bonito filleted by Ronco.

Fixed it for dinner stuffed with garlic, fried in butter. Mmmm.

Good conversation.

Listening to Frank Sinatra singing "My Kind of Town".

Treated to this view cleaning up after cena.

Time to go join my sweetie in la cama.

Dim Sum Is For Niños, Part Two

Puerto Vallarta--playa and malecón, with muelle at center right
Yelapa’s isolation has its downside. You want to buy drugs, the legal kind at least, you have to bounce on a panga, over miles of swells to Puerto Vallarta. But it’s a beautiful ride on a calm and sunny morning, and I had my face in the wind all the way. Like a happy dog in the back of a pickup, his front feet on the cab, ears flapping in the breeze.

Many of the locals and most of the ex-pats make the PV trip and back at least once or twice a month. The latter, as much for the big city hit or to see a friendly but unfamiliar face, as for taking care of business, like picking up roast beef at Costco. Going there to fill my prescription didn’t take much convincing on the recreational side. After my sweet wife had a real tough night with her sputum, I figured there might be valid medical reasons as well.

Old City Puerto Vallarta, chockablock
with farmacias and gringos
Marbella was the 9:30 panga. We had luxe accommodations--seatbacks, cushions, even a narrow center aisle--and we dropped off a gaggle of gringas at the little alternate port of Boca (de Tomatlan) where they had to wade the surf ashore. That left just me and two gringo graybacks another quarter hour on the panga before we easily mounted the beautiful new muelle at the unfortunately named Playa de los Muertos in PV. 

Farmacias in that ciudad are as common as coffee shops in Seattle. It’s a good thing; I stopped in a half dozen before I got the prescription expectorant, et cetera, filled. I’m not sure if there’s a co-pay system here for the locals, or whether it’s all gratis at the clinic, or whatever, but the cost on the boxes totaled $385 MXN--about $30 US.

After taking care of bidness, I had a pleasant stroll on the malecón above the beach and flirted with the idea of taking in a cerveza, but decided to take my business back to little Yelapa, making the noonish panga with only minutes to spare. The funky La Guera (loosely translated as “Blondie”) was also carrying our local celebrity chefs Ray and Susan on their way home with some delicacies for dinner.

Whether the drugs were effective for their active ingredients or as placebos, or maybe la tos (cough) had just about run its course, last night was much more peaceful. And as a happy side note, the Caltusine was not available in pill form, but as a syrup, like our beloved Delsym, AKA Dim Sum. Score!

Continuing this quest for a cure gives me a feeling of accomplishment. It's difficult to get words around, but I feel more firmly part of the daily round of the community for doing it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dim Sum Is For Niños, Part One

Yesterday I again sought relief from nagging pertussions keeping me awake at night. I returned to Gorgonia’s for another try at a cure. Something other than the pastillas (pills) she gave me last time out. But that was all she had, so I was out of luck there.

The Clinic: waiting room, far right
I asked about the clinic I pass on my daily constitutional to the puente (bridge) and back. Modern tropical-looking design all in a sanitary white. Surrounded by a well-tended fence to keep the jungle out.

“But I’m a gringo,” I said in gringo lingo, “they can to help me?”

Gorgonia nodded her head affirmatively. “Si, si!” But the clinic would be closing soon so I would have to book.

I paused before the clinic gate, below immaculately terraced steps, looked at the handful of locals glancing down at me, and managed to swallow my momentary unease. In for a centavo, in for a kilo.

I struck up a conversation with Rodrigo, a friendly local man in his early forties. I posed the same question I had to Gorgonia. “Si, claro,” he replied, “the clinic is for everyone!” I commented with what might have passed as wryness that this is much more better than in Los Estados Unidos.  

The bedroom-sized waiting room was all in blanco, clean, polished concrete, tiles. Doors and window frames that lightweight steel you see in warmer climates. The door to el doctor’s consultorio was open and an older man and his family were quietly consulting. Nobody else around.

Although it was a sunlit day and the room seemed pleasant enough on the surface, I was made uneasy by the view out the north wall’s two screened windows--a damp and shadowy, sheer face of crumbly rock not three feet away. Whatever. It wasn’t too long a wait.

Never able to remember the name,
we took to calling this dim sum.
The doctor was about the age of my youngest daughter. He introduced himself by first name-- ”Cesario”--as we shook hands, and let me know he was comfortable in English. After confirming that, indeed, even gringos are allowed free access to his expertise, Cesario accomplished the examination protocol with great sincerity using old-school implements. 

Then, explaining his prescription, he told me that my infirm wife and I both had a virus--so antibiotics would be no help-- but that two different pills, taken as directed, would relieve our symptoms. 

“What about cough syrup?” I asked hopefully, thinking about the orange-flavored Delsym we take at home.

I've got the prescription,
now where to fill it?
“No, no,” he corrected, with his first hint of pedantry, “Syrup is for los niños.”

Chastened, I waited while he went to get the medication, heard him conversing with a hitherto unseen and unheard female. “Lo siento,” he said with a rueful smile, as he returned, “The medication is only for the locals.” Ah, there’s the rub.

And then I remembered that the local farmecia is no longer, because the pharmacist just had a heart attack and died.

To be continued...

Monday, January 13, 2014

La Lampa

La Lampa, doing its job
A few days ago I saw Nelson wrestling a long aluminum ladder down the steep path next to the ferreteria (don't go there to pick up a replacement ferret; it’s a hardware store). I kept an eye open for what construction this activity might portend. 

Noontime, the ladder was propped against a pole down at the seaside pavilion where the hombres gather in the evening to sit and spit. Next day, a clutch of cowboy electricians lashed una lampa muy grande to the top of the pole and strung wire to the nearest hot box. That night all the pangas anchored just off the playita were brilliantly spotlit.

Construction detail
Porque?” you or I, might ask. Ronco filled me in.

Motores were being stolen several nights running right off the local boats. Beautiful Sea lost both 200 hp outboards. That’s nearly $20,000 US each! Yelapa was just the latest of villages around the bahia to experience these thefts. I asked Ronco who could be the culprits. “Mafia,” he speculated. In the generic sense most likely.

La Lampa (love these cognates) seems to be doing its job. No new losses, but we're keeping our dedos crossed.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

For a Few Pesos More

We had been hearing the upbeat cacophony for nearly an hour--horns and drums drawing closer. When the ragged quartet arrived below our balcony, K tossed me a handful of coins, I grabbed my camera and flip-flopped downstairs. I was met with smiles, musical energy, if not so much facility, and an outstretched sombrero, primed with big peso notes. 

We love the ingenuity and industry with which many of our locals gain their income, whether it’s vending homemade tamales from a cooler or some audaciously tasty pies off a head-balanced rack of tins. One fellow hawks popsicles from an ice box slung around his neck, another will snap your picture with a pet iguana. 

One recent afternoon we passed a small group of enterprising
teenagers laughing, playing music,and blowing up the balloons.
Our favorite new startup is the Balloon Game, popular with our elementary school set. For a few pesos you can throw a feather dart at a board of balloons. If you hit the right color, you get your choice of prizes. This game is cleverly located to lure participants who eventually tire of bouncing on one of two nearby trampolines set up (by another entrepreneur, I hear) where the never-to-be-completed jail was originally planned.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Go Hawks!

Rain last night and intermittently through the day. Los hombres del pueblo are using the time to work on their pangas at the playita--tuning motors, scraping hulls; we’ve stayed around the casa, reading, counting our money. Lounging.

Gloria's Sometime Sports Bar, right on the main drag,
the night before the big game.
The idea is that in about half an hour I’ll amble over to Gloria’s to watch professional championship football on a widescreen TV.  

Update: Gloria's hosted a dozen of us
from the Pacific Northwest cheering
our team to victory
My team has done really well this season; I’ve jumped headfirst onto the fan wagon, so I was disappointed to think I’d miss the playoffs while we were in Mexico. Back home I’m sure all the bars will be packed, everyone yelling excitedly. 

In this village, NFL has about nada cachet, so I was surprised last Sabado to see Gloria’s calling itself a sports bar and advertising viewing times for the big games. I checked in with them yesterday to confirm the 3:35 start...about ten minutes. I gotta run.

Postscript: During the game, broadcast in Spanish, a lot of the commercials advertised the soccer that everyone else calls football. I was struck by the contrast between its lithe, shorts-clad players and our armored, helmeted behemoths. And then I thought about Americano culture and how it compares with the rest of the world. Hmmm.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Delfines, Ballenas y Pescado

Local dolphins, photograph from Punta Mita Adventures
The sea has been bringing joy and excitement to me and my sharp-eyed spouse. Yesterday, K awoke before sunrise and was treated to the sight of three bottle-nosed dolphins cavorting, nose-to-tail, in that way that they do, right in the middle of our cove. For 10, 15 minutes. A hundred yards in front of our balcony.

“It’s so thrilling,” she thought, as she imagined stripping nekkid to join them in a surf-and-turf mammalian lovefest.

Humpback photo by Roxanne Perrson
Later, after I had arisen, we were watching Ronco and a gringo fishing out near the mouth of the cove when we sighted a fluke coming down right next to their panga--imagine how that felt!--and a few seconds later, another. Humpbacks! Jorobados! Thrilling times two!

I saw Ronco again when the sky was just lightening this morning. I thought of asking him how it had felt with las ballenas, but I’d only been up for about 15 minutes and my head wasn’t yet straight, plus the language barrier. Also, he’s a pretty reticent guy.

We were meeting at that early hour to go fishing. Ana Rosa had asked me the day before if I’d like to accompany him. I was eager; he was pleasantly acquiescent. The deal was struck, although I wasn’t quite sure exactly what the deal was. Would I be paying, like for a charter? I assumed, but how much? It’s hard getting either of them to accept money.

As it turned out there were three of us in the panga when we shoved off the muelle. Nelson (pronounced with a long ‘o’, Ronco and Ana Rosa’s youngest son) had already done the grunt work of paddleboarding out to retrieve the boat. Ronco had carried the two stubby rods and handed me the bucket of spools and lures. 

He took the engine (Yamaha 75, four stroke). Nelson gave me one rod, and kept the other. I mimed casting but he shook his head and showed me how to lever the drag so a 6-inch jig spinner would reel out a hundred feet behind us. 

Five minutes later I hooked my first fish. Nelson corrected my technique, but it was easy to get
Happy fisherman by Snappy Spouse
the hang of bringing it in. The first sight was a flash of silver rising through jade water.  “A mackerel,” Nelson told me approvingly, as he carefully avoided its tiny sharp teeth and extracted the hook. It was eighteen inches long, a couple of pounds, sleek and gleaming with brown spots along both lateral lines. 

I think I got the next one as well, and then we each had a couple at about the same time--all in pretty quick succession. There was a slack period as we moved up to the mouth of the cove, but another brisk spell before we came in. We trolled for a couple of hours, part of the time right in the midst of several blowing ballenas, and caught 13 bonito, 2 mackerel.

My score was 8 or 9--beginner’s luck. Everyone seemed happy with the haul. I got a fat, five pound bonito, and an invitation to come along tomorrow morning. For the nonce at least, I’m part of the crew. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

La Cascada

La Cascada
La cascada is Spanish for “waterfall” and one of the attractions people always mention when asked what to do at Yelapa. It’s visited every day by the sheeple from the Vallarta booze cruise who are shepherded here by their backward-walking guide and warned against any food vendors (except those on the playa who reputedly give the guides a kickback).

Last year, this vendor told me she spent all of the offseason
weaving these clothes...right.
There are lots of other vendors, though, who live up that way and tend their displays of mostly scarves and jewelry made who-knows-where, as well as a few folk objects of more local provenance.

The path up to the waterfall takes you into the jungle and is a relatively short, very pleasant and easy stroll. I meandered up that way yesterday.

I enjoyed the interactions with the vendors I met, although one--Solchi by name--I remembered as being stickily persistent. Memory served--it was hard to get away without buying something I didn’t want, and, since she knows where we’re staying, I’m sure she’ll hunt me down to close a sale that’s mostly in her mind.

El Doctor, vending near the falls
At the other extreme was Aurora--a smiling easy-going lady with whom I’ll enjoy chatting again. And finally, El Doctor, so called by me for his distinguished looks and demeanor, from whom I bought a funny little coconut mask of El Payaso--The Clown.
Every good stroll ends with a cerveza

One of these days I’ll return again to la cascada to see if I can find the trail the pescador in Vallarta told me about--the one that climbs to the basin at the top of the fall, being muy cuidado, of course, to avoid Solchi along the way.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Ants: Again and Adios

A hour after mop-up and they're
still searching for the elixer.
My probing wife has come to a dead end trying to determine how quickly ants can deteriorate different foodstuffs. The experiment, its beginning described here, had been inconclusive anyway, even before they suddenly invaded en masse.

This last event was the result of another kitchen quest, this time to create a herbal cure for secretion-related ailments so severe, my plain-spoken wife swears, her snot has been sticky enough to epoxy a boat. 

You can see the marine influence speaking.

Anyway, the active ingredient in this medicinal concoction is ginger, but the main ingredient is sugar. She cut up the former, added a lot of the latter, and water, and boiled.

The ginger syrup, now in ant-free zone

I think her result proved conclusively that ants are summoned by smell, especially that of azucar. She'd only had her mixture boiling for minutes when the multitude began to gather, like she was a goddess in some primitive ant ritual, and they were swarming acolytes.

I wasn’t there but she said it got scary.

So, we’re off ants, at least for the time being. 

My misgivings about her initial experiment, I believe, were well founded, and, anyway, its results, for various technical reasons, were inconclusive, except for the smell thing. 

Glorious Sunrise This Morning

Un amenecer muy glorioso 
If there are morning clouds they usually accumulate at the head of the valley down which Rio Tuito flows, down from the mountains, and ultimately into the lagoon and our little cove. This time of year the sun seems to rise from the cloud bank's center, giving the early riser a treat.

Monday, January 6, 2014


Village pier, or muelle, is at center. The bow-anchored pangas always face windward,
to the open water in the afternoon, inland the rest of the time.
There is no road to this village from the outside, so watercraft called "pangas" are as ubiquitous as cars everywhere else. Almost everyone’s daily round here is propelled either by foot or panga, with enough going horseback to litter the cobblestones with more or less drying dung. 

The panga is a high-bowed, outboard-powered fishing boat. They run between 18 and 28 feet, and the engine of choice is a Yamaha 200, V6. The Yamaha brand is fitting since that company developed the design of the boat as part of a World Bank project in the 70s. They are common in the developing world, and as a sidenote, are the vessel of choice for Somali pirates.

Acrobatic souls, disembarking at the playa, 
from a panga
In our little cove there are usually a few daytrippers in yachts from Vallarta, a sailboat or two from further ports, but the rest of the up to thirty or so craft are pangas belonging to the locals, and used mostly for fishing and transport, or just as a simple runabout.

Fishing is the traditional livelihood of the people living around this cove. Today, though, most of the wealth comes from tourists, trickling down through the family-owned rooms for rent, restaurants and tiendas. All of the people and 95% of the goods that power this economy come by panga.

Everything from toilet paper and beer to people come and go
from the muelle.
A dozen water taxis ply the water route between here and Puerto Vallarta, each several times a day. They are also all pangas, and unless they are pulling up to the playa to let their hardy passengers pop off the bow and into the surf, they come and go from the muelle, or pier, just below our balcony.

What more, and what more varied activity, could two people-watchers want?