Friday, February 7, 2014

Blessing of the fishing fleet

In Bucerias - the annual blessing
of the fishing fleet
Fishing is the major income source for the locals in this area on Banderas Bay (La Cruz, Bucerias) and they bless their fleet of fishing vessels every February, with decorating of the boats, coming to shore at high speed, and the blessing ceremony at the church for a good fishing season. It's quite the to do, and we were there to see the action.
the parade of boats before they plow into the sand at high speed

In La Cruz, the fishing dock, where the
procession of fishing pangas
started. The fleet goes to church for
the blessing

seriously crazy margaritas in
Puerto Vallarta with our
group of friends!

Mike being serious
surveying our table
 We were coaxed by friends to join them at a famous tourist place in Puerto Vallarta where the margaritas are as big as a house, the meals are huge and the music is loud! A very popular spot for 'turistas'. The tableside-made guacamole rocks.
Marni and Pete getting ready

fast action: tableside
made guacamole!

and of course, the mariachi band serenading our table
Sitting at a small taco stand along the bay in the town of La Cruz, a bunch of 4 foot crazy orange iguanas cruised through the huanacaxtle trees and provided excellent close up entertainment. Tough looking, and fast moving dudes.

4 foot iguanas in the huanacaxtle trees right above our
table at a restaurant in La Cruz

Free margaritas at a new place on the beach.
Nice spot!

Sunset scene as we walked along the beach

Scenes from the engine room: trying to figure out
why our radar isn't working
Of course, boat projects continue on Pura Vida, including the effort to determine why our radar isn't working. We have a second radar, not sure why but it was there when we bought the boat, but now we understand why! And, other projects you don't want to know about that keep us hopping and ensuring the boat runs smoothly when we are underway.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Los Mochis to El Fuerte

Daytime view from the patio where we had happy hour
and watched the sunset, Venus and the moon rise
Amazing river in El Fuerte - hard to
capture fabulous sunset on my cell phone -
should have the Nikon D80 on a road trip
Our road trip from Topolobampo led us inland via two buses to Los Mochis and on to El Fuerte. We spent the morning in Los Mochis, a bustling city with a large market, busy bus station (it's quite the hub) and great 5 peso tacos. That's about 38 cents each and it was good pork. A family run operation, the entire crew was working and we were there on January 6th, a big holiday here highlighted by Roscas, a popular oblong coffee cake filled with dried fruit and a baby Jesus. If your piece contains the baby Jesus, you have to host a tamale party in mid Feb. Anyway, this family was eating their Roscas under their restaurant/tent in the midday sun and the owner brought us each a piece! How nice is that.

We continued on to El Fuerte to spend a couple days. The hotel our friends told us about appeared closed (but that's another story) and so we stopped to have nachos and a drink to make our next plan. The waitress told us about Rio Vista and we should tell them she sent us and not to pay more than 500 pesos. So, off we went, scored a great room - and this was our view from the patio.

While enjoying our afternoon nachos, an American Dr walked by and asked if were part of the medical team there to help the locals for the weekend. We said no, she asked if we'd like to volunteer so we spent the next morning working at the makeshift hospital. Mike helped with supplies, caulking and by getting rid of splints and braces that they didn't want the locals to get and use incorrectly! I translated at the station for incoming patients where blood pressure was taken and I asked the barrage of questions to get them to the right medical assistance. And once again, my Spanish helped but some of their answers escaped me. I saw some amazing things. It was great to help and a very humbling experience.

We took the nature trip to see petroglyphs that are thousands of years old. River trip sitting on plastic chairs in a fast moving panga. We were the only passengers so personalized tour and a ride in a zebra-striped Scout through town and into the countryside to the river access. Fun time!
View from the entrance to Rio Vista
Handpainted plaque in our handpainted room
Church bell tower
The iglesia/church in El Fuerte
Bougainvilla along the cobblestone streets in El Fuerte

The town is really quite magical and was so proclaimed by the federal government as a "pueblo magico" which we have to agree with! It's the access point to the Copper Canyon, where we went in 2011 with some Canadian cruising friends. This time, back to further explore this great little town with its popular city square, the Fuerte River that flanks the town, and plenty of cobblestone streets to twist ankles if you're not attentive. And, they sell an incredible array of boots here, so I bought a pair of black leather boots for 39 dollars. I had to go to a couple shops to find a large enough boot.

One of the many ancient petroglyphs on our nature trip
Virgin of Guadalupe carved into
stone on the walkway at Rio Vista

Getting ready for our jungle river nature trip.
Yep, a zebra-striped Scout.

The box from $39 black leather boots I bought
Giraffe (!?) tower as we walked
to find the makeshift hospital
where we volunteered
In the 'lobby' of Rio Vista,
Guillermo painted this
fabulous mural
during our 3 day visit
Our handpainted room was so lovely!
On our nature trip, blossoming cacti
Water feature in
Los Mochis

Life is good in San Blas

Sighted land after 2 days heading south from Topolobampo -
Islas Marias (not accessible as one of the 3 islands has a prison)
After 9 days waiting out the weather in Topolobampo, our trip south was thankfully mild. I think I prayed hard enough for smooth sailing so we had calm seas and reasonable winds. We decided to bypass Mazatlan after our 2 aborted attempts to get there. Figured there was a sign there we shouldn't ignore!

After a couple of days and nights, we reached the 3 Islas Marias at sunset (great sunset as usual), then continued on for another 8-10 hours to Mantanchen Bay. We are doing 6 hour shifts (we take turns: 6:30p to 12:30a gets the sunset and star gazing, and 12:30a to 6:30a enjoys moon set and sunrise). Most people choose 3 or 4 hour shifts, but we prefer a bigger chunk of time to sleep when we're off shift. Of course, the moon cycle changes and on this journey, the waning moon provided Mike with light until 2:30a.

He woke me shortly before moon set as we approached the bay, as we're both on shift when time comes to anchor. So much for evening light to guide us - we arrived at the bay just after the amazing yellow moon sunk murkily into the black sea behind us and left us in total blackness. Thankfully, it's a large and shallow bay so we anchored for the night and waited until daylight to enter the often heard about, dangerous entrance into the narrow channel into San Blas.

The church at San Blas
Our selection of a place to drop anchor was dictated by the many panga / fishing boats tooling throughout the bay in the dark with no lights, and the huge shrimp trawlers that light the night sky and cast extensive nets. And we wanted to be far enough away from the entrance to the channel so we could catch a few winks before sunrise without getting zoomed by pangas.

Seriously, this guy made me shudder - check those teeth
In the early morning we started our approach to the San Blas channel. A nice guy in a fishing panga raced by and waved to us to signal the best approach to the entrance to channel, stay way to the R and avoid running amuck (literally). A welcome act of kindness! He was already at the fuel dock when we arrived to say our thanks. After refueling, we came to the Fonatur Marina and found the services to be better than expected, prices lower than last year, and the town of San Blas easily accessible via cobblestone streets. The city square bustles with vendors in the early morning, so fresh produce and bakery were a treat.

On our wanderings about town, and to find the (closed) Port Captain's Office, I tried my first - and last - tripe taco. We love to buy street tacos (the busier the place, the better) and this lady was swishing around stuff on the grill. I asked what it was and she smiled that it was 'tripa, muy deliciosa', and being a rather adventuresome eater, I thought I could try the 'very delicious tripe'. OK, now I am over that.

This estuary was filled with crocs of all sizes,
eyeballs and a few spines above the water line
Pura Vida blog
Cormorant drying his wings in the sun after a dive

We decided to do the crocodile tour and took a taxi to the dock. I chatted with our driver in Spanish (the best practice you can get) and he made a special stop at this estuary so we could see just how many crocs are in the area. The warning sign says to be careful and protect the natural area. We continued on, and as always, it's important to ask 'cuanto' before getting into a taxi so you know how much you'll be paying.

Turtle family lined up, sunning on the log
Removing the heads and peeling fresh
shrimp on the dock in San Blas
The Crocodile trip was on a fast panga that held 6 of us and the driver/tour guide. Turns out the lady in front of us is the dentist in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle where our friend from Portland had work done 2 years ago. Small world! Crocs, heron, egrets, turtles and more entertained us along the fast ride up river to the place you can swim in a small pool, now penned off from the crocs. I guess that screen is a new addition, and one that I imagine is wise. We chose not to swim there. We took the small tour down river to learn about crocs and other local animals, including jaguars and javelinas. The guide rattled on - sometimes I just can't listen that fast - and I wasn't able to tell much of the story to Mike. He was OK with that. Sometimes the visuals are enough.

After that big adventure on our first day, we bought shrimp on the square and I gleefully cleaned it for our dinner. Life is good in San Blas and we hope to visit again one day. After 3 days, it was time to head further south.