Friday, February 24, 2012

Costa Alegre

The area around Barra de Navidad is aptly named Costa Alegre and now we know why.
Every anchorage makes you happy!  We Spent a month in this area based out of Barra de Navidad.  We left Barra with some of our new friends and sailed (yes...we actually sailed!) to a beautiful cove called Ensenada Carrizal.   This is a wonderful spot, no town, no palapa restaurant, no homes, nothing but crystal clear water, lush coral fields and millions of fish.  We had such a great time there, I have never seen such rich coral in my life, the bright green, purple and blue color was just unreal.  That matched with a lively display of reef fish made for the best snorkling yet.  
We were with our good friends on Nauti Moments, Full and By and Kasasa - all great sailors from Canada.  We took turns hosting dinner on each others boats and had the best time ever.  The night we hosted dinner we also invited the folks from Wades Away, a father / son team sailing around Mexico.   They showed up with a keg of Tequilla to share...must I say more?

We started with Sangria ala Julia:
Papaya, Pineapple, Apple and Berries
soaked in a generous portion of Volka and Contreu for several hours in the top of the freezer.
When the guests arrived I added a bottle of 
White Wine and a can of lemon lime soda.
Wow!  A happy buzz and a serving of fruit in each glass, it was a win win for everyone.
Jeff, Eion and Dick in the back of the boat.

 On the menu:  
Avocado bean dip from Wades Away 
Grilled Mahi Mahi with a ginger orange glaze and grilled onions served with Jasmine rice from the host boat 
A veggi casserole courtesy of Ellen aboard Kasasa.  
Carol from NauatiMoments brought a Pineapple Upside Down Cake made with Rum.  
As you can see, we pick good friends!
Ken and Carol in the foreground, Ellen in green
Brian next to Ellen and myself, Maureen next to me, Richard-Brian's Dad then Ann on his shoulder.
 The next day I got the surfboard out and showed off my best effort behind our little 4 horse outboard.  It was not long before Ken on Nauti Moments offered a pull with his 15 horse outboard and I quickly accepted.  Before long every guy in the cove was riding my board behind Ken’s  dinghy.  We had such a great time.  

After all of that Jeff and I decided to try out our dive gear in the cove.  Actually, it all started the night before when I was cleaning up after the dinner party.  Maybe it was the Sangria, maybe the tequila, I don’t know but...When I was rinsing out our my big pot- the one I use every day- I accidentally threw it overboard.
Hum...maybe we can find it with our dive gear on?   No!  What a crazy idea that was! 
Who know’s how the boat was swinging and there are no land marks once you get down 30 feet to a nice sandy bottom.  So after a short look around we we swam over to the reef and enjoyed looking at more fish.  Will Jeff fall for the "I could not possible prepare a reasonable meal with out this pot, we will just have to eat out until I have a complete set of cook ware"  line?   NOT!
From Ensenada Carrizal we moved around the corner to Santiago Bay.  A big bay with luxury waterfront homes and resorts.  Too many jet skis and party barges for us so then next night we moved on to Las Hadas.  Que Bonita!  Again with our new Canadian friends we had a great time.  Las Hadas is on the North edge of Manaznillo, a large industrial city.  Besides being beautiful to look at, it was just a short taxi ride to good grocery's.  It had been a while and we were beginning to run low on wine, bear, mineral water, soft drinks as well as some staples.  We usually shop at the little tiendas and weekly produce markets but carrying heavy items like wine and beer is a real problem especially with my bad neck so having a taxi drop us off at our dinghy dock was a welcome change.

The marina is behind the breakwater and in the back
ground is the resort Las Hadas.  So beautiful
and whimsical.  Las Hadas means "the fairies".

These hills are paved with cobblestone streets and lush patches of palms and bougainvillea.
We were anchored out with several other boats.  The restaurant in the foreground lets cruisers park dinghy's on their beach for free.  Las Hadas charges 200 pesos a day!

This brings up an little issue here in Mexico.  Shopping.  Food is super good, inexpensive and easy to come by.  I think the produce here is of much better quality than what I get back home.  It is grown locally, picked when ripe and tastes delicious.
Consumer goods can be hard to find and very expensive.  I really feel for the people here.  They earn very little and the simplest thing like a large pot is expensive and of the worst quality ever.  While in Manzaillo I went to Walmart to get a new pot.  Well, the few to choose from were made of the thinnest aluminum I have ever seen and cost about $30.00 US.
Who could afford that here except a desperate American or Canadian.  I was not that desperate so off I went to Commercial, a large mega grocery story that also sell appliances, clothes, electronics etc.  The selection was very similar to Walmart and I would not give up that easy.  I spotted a Coppel department store down the street so off I went on my mission for pot -  I mean to purchase a new pot.  Well in I went, I quickly scanned the store, found the kitchen dept. and located the pots and pans.  Aha!  A well made heavy aluminum pot with teflon coating and a lid that can lock on,  good for pot lucks and the like.  I'll take it!
After wandering aimlessly around the store trying to find a check out counter I ask for assistance and get in line.  While in line I read the large price tag with several different prices on it.  I assumed it was on sale and the smallest price was it's current marked down offer.
No...That was the lay-away price per month!  This aluminum pot cost 688.00 pesos, about $60.00 US.  Are you kidding me?  There is no way I am spending $60.00 for this piece of...well you get the message.  I am still with out my much needed pasta pot.  Lesson learned, no more drinking and washing.  Dishes can wait until morning.

After we returned to Barra de Navidad we booked a Bed and Breakfast in the small town of Comala.  This would be our first time off the Buena Vida in 5 months.  Our B&B was super charming and Comala is such a sweet pueblo with white washed buildings and a simple life.

Reading in the court yard outside of our room.
I was sick with a fever and cold but tried not to let it slow me down.

Mexican style tapas are served when you order a drink and
they just keep bringing food as long as you stay.

The town plaza or Jardin as they call them in this region was filled
with trees, flowers and park benches.  Not that many Norte Americano's visit here

Jeff is buying Tamales and I taste the rich drink made from milk, masa & vanilla
It is like drinking vanilla pudding.

The Jardin with the Cathedral in the back ground

Most of the town is white washed but some of the structures
reveal the original adobe bricks.

Mom's and older sisters were doing arobics in the
background while the little ones played in
this charming community park. 

The kids liked it when I showed them their picture on
the camera sceen.

We spent a day with our B & B owner on a historical/cultural tour of Comala
and Colima.  This is a temporary bull fighting ring erected each year for a
annual Fair.  Each segment is built by a family or organization and their members
sit in that area. What was extra unusual was that the bull ring is made of woven mats, smoking is discouraged.
Very unnerving to think of hundreds of people in here together.
Notice the two Volcanoes in the background

Local gentlemen building their section.

I love this guy right down to the super traditional leather hauraches.  This area of Mexico is
so traditional and interesting.  Notice the floor is made of woven mats!

Ruins from the original indigenous peoples.  The theory is that this area was
abandoned due to the volcanic activity.
atop the rock foundation was a palapa style structure.

Birds eye view of Colima (or Spain or Italy, hard to tell from here).

A beautiful colonial city.

This is a very famous artist Guillermo Rios Alcala.  He in known internationally for his fine
museum reproductions of pre columbian artifacts.  

He let us handle the original pots he is showing us.
He uses these to make reproductions.  

Inside the museum we view a great collection of handy crafts.
This display of tradition matrimonial clothes reminded me of Josh and Rachel's
upcoming wedding.

A real traditional central mercado.

Jeff is buying a cup of Tuba, a traditional drink made
 form the sap of palm  trees mixed
 with jamica tea and chopped apples.
 Served with a sprinkle on salted nuts on top.
The Mexican food often has a harmonious
blend of sweet and salt.

The next day we drove with some other guests of the B & B north towards the volcanos
to check out some of the really small villages and beautiful mountains.
This is a super small coffee "plantation".
The beans are drying on a concrete slab.

Before we purchase some coffee we wanted to try some.  
Apparently we thought we were wine tasting in Napa Valley or something.  

This lovely woman had to go to her "rustic" kitchen, boil water and cook us some coffee.  Notice the red hand-grinder in the bottom right of the picture and the homemade adobe stove.  The house was a one room brick structure with a bed, the "bathroom" was out back down the way.  Needless to say we purchased several bags of coffee, and so far it's the best coffee we've had in Mexico.

Life is slow and simple here.
We stopped in several little villages that day.
This one is "famous" for these colorful
and interesting carvings built into the wall.
A local man let us use his bathroom.  This was his outdoor kitchen.
In the cages are lots of roosters that are not going to be used for food.
This is cock fighting territory.

The next town housed a family famous for these masks.  Three generations
have been carving these from wood then carefully painting them.  They are
used for Semana Santa parades and Easter activities.

Back to Barra for a few days then heading North to Banderas Bay.  We are getting very
excited about our return trip home to see the family and participate in the the wedding activities.  

I like the contrast between the happy simple life of the locals and the Grand Bay Resort in
the background.  It is all good.

The Malacon in Barra de Navidad.
These young girls are usually pregnant and selling stuff
along the beach.  
Nice surfing right outside the harbor entrance.  I surfed there with my
new friend Kristen and with Jeff Beller.  The day I went with Jeff
it was about 6-7ft.  Too big for me, I feared for my life!  Finally caught one wave though.

Jeff with the Buena Vida at Ensenada Carrizal.
We have loved our time there but are ready to come home for a while.

Hasta Pronto!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Are we really here?

The Tree Of Life.

Hola amigos
We  have been out of internet/phone for a while but now we are back in action.  We have sailed down from La Cruz to Barra de Navidad and can't believe we have made it so far!  We still just look at each other in disbelief.  

Jeff got a bad cold/flu in La Cruz and of coarse he was in denial so we did the overnight trip from La Cruz to Chamela with him running a fever.  He was sick the whole time we were in Chamela and most of the time we were in Tenacatita.  After he got over the initial phase of illness he developed an asthmatic bronchitis and was super sensitive to smoke.  It seems  that someone is always burning trash here so Jeff suffered through many sleepless nights up coughing and wheezing.

We loved  the famous Tenacatita and spent about a week or maybe more there 
( I keep losing track).  It was by far my favorite spot up to this point.  Everyday I would kayak ashore, go for a run then do some yoga under the palm trees.  Later in the day I would snorkel with my fish friends.  I mourned a bit each day as they succumbed to the hungry birds and bigger fish.  Every once and in while I would hear splashing outside of the boat and think someone was swimming up.  When I went on deck I would see hundreds of big fish thrashing about as they ate as many small ones that they could fit in their months.  It was an amazing sight.  

Simple fishing village of Chamela.  The snorkling was great!

Tenacatita.  The entrance to the estuary.

Robert, the  "mayor", at the traditional friday night dingy raft up.  Many cruisers will stay at Tenacatita for weeks or months as it is so calm and beautiful here.  The town of La Manzanilla is just a couple of miles across the bay and a great place to get fresh produce and a meal out.

Interesting and fun group for the raft up.

I would float off the stern of the Buena Vida and enjoy the cool water.

Millions of fish enjoying the growth on the bottom of the Buena Vita.

Oncoming traffic as we dinghed up the estuary early in the morning to check out the birds and other wildlife.

We were going so slow to see little creatures in the trees that the current swept us side ways.  It was tricky getting into tight spots with out risking our inflatable dink.

Kotamundi, similar to a racoon.

The cheerful town of La Manzanilla with its wimsical colors.  A small group of Americans and Canadians blend in
well with the locals and make this the most charming town we have experienced yet.  

A few other cruisers went with Jeff and I to La Manzanilla one day.  We loved the crocodile refuge.

Lunch Time! They either don't move at all, or surprisingly fast.

La Manzanilla the town across the by from the Tenacatita anchorage.  The coolest town so far.

Of course he has a goat in his truck.  

Mom and girls enjoying the morning.  Actually they were washing a small dog.

After our  great time on the hook in Chamela and Tenacatita we headed for Barra de Navidad.   In Barra there are two choices for boaters.  Anchor in a protected lagoon or stay in the fancy marina.  Sheepishly we checked into the Marina at the Grand Bay  Resort and we love it.    We actually were a bit embarrassed because all of the boats that we have been hanging with are in the lagoon.  One couple has come over several times to use the pool/shower as our guest.  The lagoon is beautifully situated to watch birds and sunsets but it is stifling hot, you can not go in the water and there are mosquitoes.  So...we decided to splurge and stay in the marina at the Grand Bay Hotel.  WOW!  This is one of the nicest resorts we have ever seen.  Golf, tennis, kayaks, jet skis, pools, hot tubs, several restaurants, great walking paths with amazing landscape, private beaches with cabanas, loungers and hammocks.  Well anyway, you get the vibe, a bit expensive but super cool, hence the fact that most sensible boaters stay in the lagoon for free.  This is an extreme contrast to the little fishing villages that we usually anchor off of and honestly we love them just as much, it is just different.  Jeff and I love the landscape and taking long walks through the resort, then swimming in the pool mid afternoon really cools you off.  It has been around 72 degrees in the morning then up to 90 in the afternoon so a dip in the cool pool feels great.  

The Grand Bay Resort

Jeff buying a fresh baguette and crissonts from the French Baker.  He delivers to the Marina then to the Lagoon each morning.  What a treat!

Dingy dock at a remote location of the resort.   Follow the path to a gorgeous golf course, then on to the Pacific Ocean crashing on the beach.  Just a great place to take long walks.

Little restaurants on the beach in the lagoon serve great fresh seafood.

The Resort/Marina from the bow on the Buena Vida

We will stay here for a bit then head south to Santiago Bay, Las Hadas and Cuesta Comate (secret anchorage), then back to our lovely piece of heaven in the marina at the Grand Bay.  After another week here we will start the return trip to Puerto Vallarta.  We will spend a bit more time in Tenacatita on the way back as we can not believe how great it is there.  We need to fly home around Feb. 28-29 for Josh and Rachel's wedding.
We miss the boys and my parents a lot and I am looking forward to Rachel's bridal shower and participating in the wedding events but we are not looking forward to the cold.  Oh well,  it will be great to be in our lovely town of Ventura with our family and friends.

Life in Mexico is Bueno!