One of the best things about being in Puerto Vallarta is it's international airport, with easy flights to and from the US, so lots of friends and family have been able to visit us. And honestly friends and family are really the only thing we miss about the US... Well, maybe Trader Joe's too!
Luckily for us, the last month has been packed with fun visits from family. However, we are remiss in not writing about our visit from Heidi's brother Arne, his wife Teresa, and our niece Annika last March! They came to visit us on Anni's college spring break, which was just a week before we left for our Cuba trip. So we didn't get out a blog post about their visit before our Cuba posts
Heidi and her brother Arne at the paletaria (popsicle shop!) It's where you go on a hot Mexican evening!
At any rate, we were so excited to have them visit us! Annika and three of her college friends were here for spring break, so Arne & Teresa decided to meet up with all of us here.
Mama humpback whale teaching baby to wave to the tourists!
One day we took a whale watching trip with our panguero friend Pichon, where we saw a mama humpback teaching the baby to slap its tail and wave at tourists, and also saw a large manta ray. Then we hiked up to some of our favorite waterfalls at Quimixto.
Dalir, Sasha, Pichon, and our niece Anni, sliding down the waterfall rock at Quimixto.
Another day we all piled into a taxi-van and took a 2-hour road trip over the mountains and through the jungle to visit the towns of El Tuito and Mayto, the beach on the other side of Cabo Corrientes. The beaches are amazing here and we look forward to visiting again soon. It is rumored that this will become Mexico's newest tourist development area and soon these pristine beaches may be covered in high-rise hotels. As the Eagles so presciently sang in the song Last Resort
, "...call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye."
And one day we hiked through the jungle and along the beach from Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas, with a lunch stop at Marika Beach Club. We are so grateful that we come from active families who like to be outdoors doing things, not just sitting on the beach all day long soaking up rays. Not that there's anything wrong with relaxing and soaking up rays, but there are so many cool things to see and do around PV it's fun to show people around.
Mid-hike lunch stop at Maraika Beach Club with Rina, Teresa, Arne, Anni, Sasha, Dalir, between Boca de Tomatlan and Las Animas.
Annika and her friends stayed in an Airbnb in a nearby neighborhood, where they discovered yummy local street food at Taco Syhuayo
, a few doors down. We were the only gringos there, no tables, just a bunch of chairs set up in a driveway, with a cooking area in the middle. It opens at 8 PM and closes at 3 AM every day, and it was always so packed we had to wait for chairs! Even though we ate late at night, Anni and her friends were so happy to be WARM, having come from winter in Minnesota.
We all had a fantastic time hanging out and visiting new places. And we are so grateful that Arne, Teresa, and Anni and her friends were all able to come and visit us.
The Boyz: Galen and Kirk, can you tell they are related?!
The next family visit was from Kirk's brother Galen, his wife Ann, our nephew Mike, his wife Sara, and their two young boys Maverick age 5, and Kyen age 3. Mike's 40th birthday was just three days before Kirks's 72nd birthday, so we planned a big family birthday bash. Ann and Galen stayed with us in the condo, and Mike and Sara and boys had another condo next-door.
Galen, Heidi, Kirk, and Ann at Baracuda, being photo-bombed by 3 year-old Kyen!
Ann and Galen had first met in Puerto Vallarta many years ago, when Galen was a pilot and Ann was a flight attendant, both for Republic Airlines, (before they became Northwest Airlines), so it was fun for them to be back.
Uncle Kirk and nephew Mikey, celebrating their birthdays, 72 and 40! Can you guess which one is which?!
They all arrived on Mike's 40th birthday, and we went to our favorite low-key fish restaurant, El Baracuda, on the beach so the boys could play in the sand after a very early morning departure and a long flight.
The Whole Fam-Damnly: Heidi, Sara, Maverick, Mike, Galen, Kyen, Ann, and Kirk on Johnny Bravo's Panga Tour with Pichon, at Los Arcos.
The next day we were up early again for a Panga trip with Pichon. The boys got to experience their first snorkeling, as well as hiking to two different waterfalls, one at Colomitos, and the other in Yelapa.
We also stopped for lunch at Las Animas where Maverick got to hold a giant iguana. He wasn't quite sure what to make of it, and Kyen wanted no part of it. But when the jewelry vendor came around with shark tooth necklaces, the boys were all over that!
We spent most of the days at the pool, the boys wanting to be in the water all day long. One day Ann and Galen offered to hang out with the boys at the pool while we took Sara and Mike to morning beach yoga, and then out for some local Mexican cuisine. It was a lot of fun to spend the morning with Sara and Mike, we hadn't seen them since right after their wedding in Tulum, many years ago when we snorkeled with them in a cenote.
Mike is one of the top chefs in Naples, FL, and is always eager to try new foods. We wanted to take him to the taco stand that Annika had discovered, but it didn't open until 8 pm. So we went out for Chilaquiles for breakfast, and after walking around town, Mike found another street taco vendor he wanted to try out.
Mikey meeting Moctezuma, all was good... until it wasn't!
Unfortunately, it's not always advisable to eat street food during low tourist season. Between the high heat and humidity, the slow business, and the low turnover of food, food poisoning can be very common. And Mikey got to experience Montezuma's Revenge first hand.
The next night we were all going out for a big birthday celebration dinner for Mike and Kirk. We had picked Barrio Bistro
as a restaurant we knew Mike would love for its unique local flavors and dishes. Bario Bistro changes its menu weekly, depending on what they can source locally and seasonally, and it's always DELICIOUS. Plus they have fun, unique art there too! Sadly Mikey was too sick to join us and had to make do with photos of us enjoying the food instead. We toasted his birthday and to a speedy recovery. Mikey, you will have to visit again and experience Barrio Bistro first hand!
All too soon it was time for them to pack their bags and head back to Florida. It was a wonderful visit, and we were so thrilled to finally meet our great-nephews Maverick and Kyen and to have some good quality time hanging out with Ann and Galen.
Galen, Ann, Mike, Sara, Kyen, and Mav givin' us the High-5 Good Bye. Thanks for the visit guys, it was a blast! Product placement by Starbucks not a paid endorsement, honest!
Kirk was very touched that they made the effort to be here for his birthday. And he decided it shouldn't be so long between visits, so we will be planning another get together somewhere soon.
A few days after Ann and Galen and family left, Heidi's 83 year-young Mom, Jean arrived for a visit. We were so happy to have her visit us in Mexico and share some of the fun places we like to explore. And Puerto Vallarta provided one of its best sunsets to welcome her.
The calm before the storm, who wouldda guessed two days later we'd be experiencing a hurricane!?
Lucky we planned our snorkeling trip for her first morning here, as Hurricane Lorena was predicted to hit on the second day. Mom Jean grew up swimming in the Pacific ocean in California, and could swim before she could walk! She has always loved snorkeling and swimming in the ocean and feels right at home in the sea.
We hired Johnny Bravo with his panga "Andrea" for a fabulous half-day of snorkeling and hiking to waterfalls. Here we are at the Los Arcos caves, a rookery for pelicans and blue-footed boobies. The caves can make for good snorkeling and kayaking too.
And it turned out to be one of our very best snorkeling experiences in Banderas Bay! It's too bad that we forgot to take our GoPro along for pictures. The water was clear, if a little on the warmish side, and there were so many varieties of fish, including sergeant majors, tangs, angelfish, Moorish idols, jewel damselfish, lots of wrasses, a large pufferfish, even a spotted eel, and schools of sardines by the millions. We were thrilled!
After our snorkel, we bouldered our way up the jungle trail to the Colomitos waterfalls to rinse off in the freshwater pool. People were amazed at this 83-year-old mountain goat scampering up the boulders like a teenager! Mom Jean thought nothing of it, having grown up tagging along after her older brother climbing rocks and trees since she was a little kid.
Next, we were off to Yelapa to show Mom Jean the cute little fishing village only accessible by boat, which has become a hippie-yoga-meditation hang out. We swam in the waterfalls there as well, which felt a lot colder and a lot more powerful with the recent rains. But nothing like the video we saw taken the very next day during the hurricane, where the jungle mountains received up to 10 inches of rain. And sadly after the recent tropical storm, Narda brought 12-hours of solid downpour, Yelapa is in a worse condition than ever, with severe flooding.
Capitán Kirk got an upgrade in size and speed of his dinghy as he spells Juan Bravo at the helm of Andrea.
With the hurricane looming and the arrival time moving up by the hour, our Panguero friend Juan Bravo took us straight back to our marina so we would have time to prepare Due West to await hurricane Lorena. Mom Jean was a trooper, helping us take down canvas, and strapping down things on deck, or moving them below decks. Capitán Kirk finally declared her hurricane ready, and we headed back to the condo to our front-row seat for hurricane Lorena. The Port Captain closed all the marinas and all of the beaches on Banderas Bay.
Above: Due West in her normal summer mode with sunshade up. But when a hurricane is forecast, the sunshade quickly pulls back and ties up along the bimini frame (see below.) For this Category 1 Hurricane, we left full jerry cans on deck, tied down, and left dodger, bimini, tied sails, and solar panels on deck. The dinghy was also secured by a halyard and locked and tied to the deck. But anything more than a Cat 1 Hurricane or a direct hit, and we'd remove all of that from deck as well, and store below decks.
This time we got lucky. The Cat 1 Hurricane Lorena was downgraded to a tropical storm (up to 70mph) as she passed by the entrance to Banderas Bay, 30 miles away. This is a frequent occurrence due to the topography and geography of the area. The mountains to the south often block the winds weakening hurricanes as they pass the entrance of the Bay, making Puerto Vallarta a good hurricane hole.
NOAA/National Hurricane Center projected trajectory of Hurricane Lorena. This particular storm picked up speed and arrived a whole day earlier than originally forecast. One of the reasons you need to act quickly to hurricane-proof everything ahead of a storm is that computer forecasting models can't always read Mother Nature's mind! Especially with increased effects of climate change... oh wait, that's fake news!
So while we had 24 hours of torrential rain, we had almost zero winds. But the following day the seas were huge! As it was still a hurricane 30 miles out to sea the surge started making its way into the bay. And for the next 24 hours, we had 8-10 foot waves breaking on the beach.
Top image: Hurricane Lorena brought 10" of rain, but thankfully only light winds. However, the next day the seas were huge. The little palm tree gazebo in the center of these photos was inundated by breaking waves all day. It is normally used for small weddings, or beach massages, not this day!
As kids, Mom Jean had taught us, "Always leave any place cleaner than you found it." So as soon as the beach was open again, we headed down with garbage bags, since there is always so much debris on the beach washed downstream from the rivers, after a big storm. But the site we were met with was truly appalling!
We had never seen this beach so trashed. So many plastic bottles, plastic trash, plastic shoes, big huge chunks of styrofoam, and little tiny bits of styrofoam, tons of little bits of multi-colored micro-plastic, mixed in with disposable razors, cigarette lighters, plastic baby doll arms, you name it, if it was made of plastic you could probably have found it on the beach. Tide was coming in and we realized that all this debris would soon be in the ocean if we didn't work fast.
We had each brought one garbage bag with us but it became evident that we would need way more. Kirk ran back to the condo to get more garbage bags while Mom Jean and Heidi furiously went after the trash closest to the water line first. And all the while more plastic bottles kept floating down the river and landing on the beach in front of us. We hurried and scurried filling our bags, and very soon several other people stopped to help too. When Kirk came back with more bags we kept handing bags out to other people who saw what we were doing and wanted to help. But we did wonder if we were actually helping the situation, or just adding more plastic garbage bags to it?
We were grateful to be joined by several vacationing Mexicans in cleaning up the beach.
In two hours, eight of us cleaned the whole entire beach. 16 man-hours of work. Many hands make light work. Then we got the condo maintenance staff to bring their ATV and trailer to pick up all the bags of trash. We had filled four extra-large (body bag sized) black garbage bags with plastic and styrofoam trash. Hopefully, we prevented a few sea birds, turtles, dolphins, or whales from dying in the process. Sadly the next time it rained the beach looked almost the same. It feels like an uphill battle, but we keep going to the beach every day, picking up as much garbage as we can. It's not our garbage, but it is our planet!
Two days after the hurricane had passed, the sun was back out again and we took advantage of the beautiful day to take Mom Jean the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, rated in the top five botanical gardens in all of North America. We had a lovely hike on the jungly Jaguar trail, "just because you didn't see the jaguar doesn't mean the jaguar didn't see you!" We kept our eyes out for jaguars as well as wild Guacamaya macaws but did not see any of either. However, the flowers were psychedelically gorgeous and we also saw a few really interesting looking insects.
Sad to see Mom Jean heading home. It was a wonderful visit, and she looked 10 years younger when she left! Must be the sea air.
That was Mom Jean's last day in town, and we were sad to see her go. It was truly one of the best visits we've ever had with her. Usually, when Heidi's family gets together it's for some birthday, anniversary, or other events where everyone is busily packing things in. So even though we did a lot of things with Mom Jean in town, we also had a lay-day between each day of exploring, to just hang out at the condo, read, siesta, relax, and catch up, which was great! Doesn't she look so much more relaxed at the end of her trip?
The tropical storms keep coming one after another, and the beaches continually need cleaning. So will end this post for now while we go clean up after tropical storm Narda, which has really made a mess of things in Yelapa and the other small fishing villages along the southern coast of Banderas Bay.
We'll be moving back aboard Due West in November, and continuing our sailing adventures south this winter, maybe as far as Zihuatanejo. But as always, our plans are written in sand at low tide. Tikka sends her love to all of you, as do we! Tosh couldn't be bothered to wake up... but he'd send his love too if he were awake!
Be sure to check out more pix of family, weather systems, tropical plants, and us in our Photo Gallery