05 January 2017
Terri Potts-Chattaway, Photo by Casey Cartwright
January 4, 2017
While waiting for our new batteries to arrive from San Diego, Jay and I decided to have some fun.
New Year's Eve, 2016 / Nuevo Vallarta
There are many ways to spend New Year's Eve here in Mexico. There is a party at the Vallarta Yacht Club (VYC) with dinner and music. Paradise Village Hotel holds a massive bash on the beach with table after table of food and a live band. All over Banderas Bay, celebrations are being held. Then, at midnight, we are told, the fireworks display is fabulous and goes from one end of the bay to the other. Many people take their boats out to watch.
Jay and I are not really New Year's Eve people so we chose a low-key approach. I packed a picnic dinner of chicken salad sandwiches, chips, grapes (for good luck) and a bottle of bubbly. Around 8:00 pm, we took a couple of towels and our picnic and went down to sit on the lounge chairs on the beach. And there we sat, just the two of us, listening to the surf and watching people casually stroll by. It was romantic and peaceful.
We were in bed by 9:30. At midnight, we awoke to the sound of fireworks. "Happy New Year!" Jay said. "Happy New Year." I mumbled back. Minutes later, we fell back asleep.
New Year's Day, 2017 / La Cruz
Morning began at the Vallarta Yacht Club. From ten to twelve, Dick Markie (Harbor Master) and his wife, Gina, prepared delicious Bloody Mary's and handed them out. A couple of yacht members had cooked up some black-eyed peas and rice (Also for good luck. Should be a good year.) and were serving small plates. All were welcome. All was free.
From there we were headed to La Cruz. We were off to visit our friends from California who are also down here on their boats. Curt and Mary from Magic (Love that boat name.) Casey and Diane from Inkatu. There is also a Sunday market at La Cruz; a combination artisans and farmers market. Lots of good stuff, good food, and good music. The best part is it surrounds the fish market where you can purchase the fresh catch of the day.
We were talking with some of our friends, reviewing the bus route we would take from Nuevo Vallarta to La Cruz (One can take different bus routes but it always takes two buses. Where to transfer can be a little tricky.) when Andy offered us a ride. He remembered the Sunday market and invited Larry and Yoshie to go with him. Yeah! No bus.
Once in La Cruz, we met up with Curt, Mary, Casey and Diane and walked over to Inkatu where we visited for a while. We had seen Curt and Mary last year but it had been over two years - when we were last in La Paz - since we had seen Casey and Diane. It was great to catch up with old friends; sharing sailing stories and remembering good times with everyone back in Oxnard.
Four out of six of us are musicians, so naturally the talk turned toward music. Curt got out his pocket trumpet and we headed to the Red Tomato for some lunch and music.
La Cruz is a small Mexican village on the north side of the bay. The marina is a mecca for cruisers. Some are preparing to sail further south. Some are preparing to do the puddle jump. (Sail across the Pacific to the Marquesas Islands.) Others come and just never leave.
The town itself is made up of both cobblestone and dirt streets. It has an authentic Mexican feel but a lot of American and Canadian expats live here. There are several restaurants, some surprisingly good ones, and others more of a hang-out. For years, La Cruz was well-known for Philos, a restaurant where good music could be found. Philo and his band would play and often would invite others to join in. Famous musicians - as well as locals - would drop in and jam. Philo was a great man who lived in the community for many years. He made everyone feel welcome and it was such fun to go there for dinner and music. Unfortunately, he passed away suddenly last year and, I must say, La Cruz is just not the same.
The Green Tomatae falls into the "hang-out" category. The building is in somewhat disrepair. The cement is cracked in places and the paint is chipped. There are a few tables out on the street but the real hang is upstairs on the second floor. It is an open-air space with something like a palapa for a roof. There are several tables and a bar. In one corner a band is playing. When we arrive, it is a band of two; Dani on drums and Victor on guitar. Dani is a big-boned woman with long blonde hair, fair skin and a pretty smile. She has pink drumsticks and a newly-acquired set of chimes.
"Christmas presents to myself." She says.
Victor has long hair too. It is straight and flows past his shoulder onto his bare chest. He wears shorts and is barefoot. He looks like a leftover hippie from the sixties. He probably is. In front of Victor is a young woman, dancing, I think. Some sort of Modern dance, though, I'm not really sure.
"She is a free spirit." Victor tries to explain. She laughs and goes on her way. We find a table and I am ready for lunch.
"No menu. I'm sorry." The waiter/bartender (maybe even cook) says. He then rattles off a six-item list of food choices. Jay and I order fish tacos, thinking those are probably a safe bet. Mary, Casey and Diane order drinks. Curt, however, has already uncased his trumpet and walks over to the band. Victor invites him to join in, along with another man, Russell, who brings out his harmonica. They play for us some blues.
This is how we spend New Year's Day. No Rose Parade. No football. We sit on the second floor of a modest building overlooking the village. In the distance, I can see the marina. A dog wanders over to plead for food. Several tables are filled with cruisers, like us. Everyone is relaxing and visiting with friends while listening to some good music over lunch. It's just a casual hang in a small Mexican village called La Cruz. This is why we are here.
The Day After New Year's Day / Sayulita
It is Monday morning, January 2nd and Jay and I take the two buses to La Cruz. We meet up with Curt, Mary, Casey and Diane at Todo Vela, the local marine store. Our plan is to visit Sayulita, a town on the Pacific side of the point, on the north shore. Standing by the side of the main road, Curt asks for directions and we quickly learn we have to take another two buses to Sayulita.
Once we make our connection, the bus driver drives fast, along winding roads, making few stops. The terrain grows dense with green foliage. Roadside stands, one after another, fly by as I look out the window. Fruits stands abound, selling indigenous fruits such as yucca, pineapples, bananas and plantains. A copper stand glitters in the sunlight. They carry kitchen ware; pots and pans and big, beautiful bowls. Another stand provides all things made of wood. We pass several taco carts too.
Up ahead, I see a sign for Sayulita, directing us left. We turn off the main road, drive a few hundred feet and the driver pulls off to the side of the road. Last stop. Okay. No signs of a town, but... We follow the crowd.
Sailors have a sixth sense and can find water anywhere. Or, maybe it was because we looked up into the sky and followed the Magnificent Frigate birds, circling over the sea, searching out prey to steal their lunch. Either way, we find our way to the beach.
Sayulita is a surprise. I was expecting a small, sleepy, surfers' village. What we find is quite different. Nestled in the hills, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Sayulita is a bustling tourist town, attracting visitors from all over the world, not just surfers. It has personality. It's funky, maybe even eclectic, with its boutique hotels, high-end art galleries and yoga retreats. Like most towns in Mexico, on one side of the street is a run-down shack, and on the other side, a colorful building with a massive front door, intricately carved with some particular design that appeals to the owner. Many properties have thick metal fences around their yard. The streets are cobblestone and dirt, of course, but also extremely narrow. So narrow, I now realize why the bus stops on the outskirts of town. When we reach the shore, we are amazed at the masses of people both in and out of the water.
"It looks like Rio." Jay says.
Always hungry, Mary and I cry out for food. We navigate our way through beach umbrellas and bodies strewn across the sand. We stop at a restaurant and find a table. We sit down and breathe a sigh of contentment while we take in our surroundings.
Overwhelmed by the visual stimulation and the town's energy, we collectively decide there is way too much to see in one afternoon. Maybe we will come back one day, stay in one of those hotels on the cliff. Or, maybe the boutique hotel we saw in town. Or, maybe, like the cruisers we are, tomorrow we will find another port, another town, another adventure to explore.
See Photos in Gallery.