Archive for February, 2008

Thar Be Whales, Captain!

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Please excuse the line from an old Star Trek movie.

We headed out, on a windy day, to Punta de Mita for a whale watching excursion.  When we arrived, we were told that the cost was 1200 pesos ($120.00 US) for the boat.   The boat can handle up to eight people, so of course, the more people on the trip, the cheaper it is per person.   Since we were the only ones inclined to venture out on the large swells, we decided to have lunch and hope for more suckers to arrive.

As we ate, we watched the surfers, who were enjoying one of the best days of surfing.  Punta de Mita is normally a very good spot to surf, but the surfers need to take a boat to the “point” where the waves break best.  Today there were waves exceeding 20 feet at the “point” so nobody ventured over there.  Here’s a shot, taken later from the boat, showing the large waves approaching the “point”.

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The waves, which don’t usually break in front of the restaurants, were about 3-6 feet tall and very well formed.  There was also a great distance between the waves.  Surfers were able to catch waves that would slowly take them for a ride that exceeded a minute.

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In about an hour, when we were finishing our lunch, we were told that, indeed, they had found two additional people to share a boat.  Neither the captain nor the other couple spoke any English.  The captain pulled the boat stern near the shore so that we could step in next to the motor.

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We headed out through 6-8 foot swells past some islands that lay about 3 miles off shore.  These islands are popular snorkeling and diving spots because of the caves and rock cuts, one of which can be seen in this photo.

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There are three major groups of humpbacks; North Atlantic, North Pacific, and Southern Hemisphere.  Some of the North Pacific humpbacks work their way, about 3500 miles, from waters near Alaska to the area around Puerto Vallarta and the Bahia de Banderas (Bay of Flags).  Punta de Mita is at the northern end of the bay.  The whales arrive in mid-November and head back in mid-March.  They breed here and then the next year following the 11-12 month gestation period give birth here in the area.   The calves are about 14-feet long and weigh about 2.5 tons (5,000 pounds) at birth.  When fully grown, they will reach a length of about 52 feet and will weigh 30 to 50 tons (60,000 to 100,000 pounds). 

More information about Humpback Whales can be found at:

http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/whales/species/Humpbackwhale.shtml

About a mile past the islands we spotted our first group of four whales.  The captain worked us close to the action.  Apparently the whales like the interaction.  I left the boat in the picture for perspective.

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When they spout and breathe is the first sign that lets you know they are in the area.  The action of breathing is quite loud.

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Their enormous tails are nearly as wide as our boat is long.  When they come down beside you it takes your breath away.

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Sitting on the beach at Lo de Marcos we have seen whales breaching well over a mile out to sea.  The splash they make is huge and easily seen from shore.  The act of breaching is when they propel themselves out of the water, do some spinning and splash back down.

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This photo courtesy of AFP.

We followed the whales for about an hour and then headed back in through, and on the backs of, the waves to our starting point.  Punta de Mita is growing rapidly with numerous condos and resorts.  The largest resort is the Four Seasons. 

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The Mexican government is planning to build new resorts in every town from Puerto Vallarta northward to San Blas, about a hundred miles.  Evidence of this is easy to spot in Lo de Marcos, where they have fenced off two beaches for construction to begin this summer.

In all, we had a great time.  The food at all of the restaurants in Punta de Mita is great.  As a matter of fact, we’ve had good meals almost everywhere in Mexico.  The whale watching was everything you would ask for, and of course, the weather was great.

If you are in this area between December and March, be sure to check out the whales.

www.tinka.net Blog update

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

In an effort to make the blog easier to navigate, we have added geographical categories in the right hand column.  The divisions are by US states and Mexico.  Mexico is broken down to cities visited.

We had over 10,000 readers in January and have already exceeded that number for February.  Thank you all for visiting.

Regards,

Tinka and Rick

Survived, and don’t feel any older than dirt.

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Yesterday we went to Puerto Vallarta with our friends Pat and Gary.  Our objective was to have a nice lunch, but the gals figured out a way to turn it into a shopping trip.

We had been to many of the restaurants in the downtown tourist area along the “Malecon” area of Puerto Vallarta.  A little further south in the town is the Rio Cuale that flows from the mountains, through town to the sea.

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At a fork in the river we located a restaurant aptly named The River Cafe.  It is an open air restaurant with some diners finding tables on balconies hanging over the river.

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The area that was more “indoors” was covered with a translucent, fiberglass coated canvas roof with bottles hanging from it.

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The rather pricey food was delicious.  Rick had the chicken breast in wine and mushroom sauce.  While good, was not as good as his own.  Tinka had the Mexican Plate.  This huge dish was served on a small platter and every item on it was fabulous.  Lunch, without any alcohol, came to about $50.00 US per couple.

The chairs were quite comfortable.  Cushioned, with no knobby things poking you in the butt.

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According to the women, the restrooms at the River Cafe are the most modern that they have seen in Mexico. They even had motion sensor hand towel dispensers.

Near the restaurant and continuing to the point at which the river splits there was a very nice market area. Prices appear to be better than on the Malecon in the downtown area. 

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Shops specialized in clothing, jewelry, tequila, and pottery.  This one specialized in masks and other wooden items.

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Here are some strange masks that you might find on a professional wrestler or and S&M advocate.

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Our friend Gary found a hat that he loved, unfortunately it was a shade small at the headband.

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On our return to Lo de Marcos from Puerto Vallarta, we took a couple of pictures of things that have intrigued us on every trip to the city.  I wanted to mention them because they may not fit into any upcoming blogs.

These gigantic wooden doors are on, what appears to be, an old bullring.  Anyway, they are massive.  Due to the steep incline of the driveway, these doors can only open inward.  The height could easily accommodate the largest of semi-trucks.

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Along the road in Bucerias, the town just north of Puerto Vallarta, we see a vendor displaying his copper pots and jugs.  The large of these are bigger than a wash tub.  He puts them out and takes them up every day.  With the corrosive salt air, I’m sure that he spends all night polishing them for the next day.

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CHOCOLATE CAKE, BEER, and TEQUILA

Your instinct might make you think that this is not a good combination,  but after a while, it really grows on you.

When we returned to Ron’s RV Park, our home, we had a little gathering to celebrate the horrendous birthday.

Rick was able to blow out all four of the candles on the cake and much of the loose chocolate shavings.

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Tinka, in red, got busy cutting the cake while others enjoyed.

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 We served up tequila añejo and Pacifico beer to wash down the cake.  We had a great time (though they may look like they are in a stupor) and want to thank everyone for attending.

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Just a note regarding flags.  With the departure of our Alaskan neighbors, Chuck and Val, we’re left as the last non-Canadians in the park.  But, our Texas flag still flies high.

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Happy Birthday, Rick

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Happy birthday to my sweet, darling husband.

I love you!!!

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As we get older we don’t really like having birthdays.  There are a few birthdays as we get older we do not mind as much as others.  Such as when we turn

1.  mandatory retirement age (except for my brother-in-law who doesn’t ever want to retire)

2.  turn 62 so we can start collecting Social Security

3  turn 65 to have Medicare instead of our expensive health insurance

That is the only reason to have a birthday now.

Rick is one of the first Baby Boomers.  The years are from 1946-1964.  So he one of the first group of the Baby Boomers to start collecting Social Security.  Now you won’t hear us saying, “Well, we will never see any of our Social Security money”.  Thank goodness he is the first of the Baby Boomers!!!!

Today we are going into Puerto Vallarta and eat lunch at a nice restaurant on the Rio Cuale (River Cuale) with some friends.  When we make a trip into PV for whatever reason,  we have to always stop of WalMart also.  While we are there, we will pick up a cake and bring it back to share at Happy Hour here at the RV Park tonight.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RICK.

La Tovara Jungle and Swamp

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

After breakfast, on our second day in San Blas, we headed just out of town for a La Tovara Jungle boat trip.  Here we hopped on a boat with two other couples for a three hour tour through the mangrove jungle and swamp.  Mangroves (generally) are trees and shrubs that grow in saline coastal habitats in the tropics and subtropics.

The first leg of our journey took us about 10 miles through the jungle and swampy plains.  This place is amazing, but I wouldn’t want to be out here at night.  As the boat moved along, we followed a channel that, at some points, was quite narrow.  We hoped that there were no huge snakes hanging in the trees waiting for us.  We spotted crocodiles, turtles, iguana, and numerous bird species.  San Blas is well known as one of the world’s great places to spot exotic birds.

We saw several birds holding their wings open to regulate their internal thermometer.

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A trio of turtles enjoying the sun.

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And some enjoyed watching us.

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Then there were the crocodiles.  Back in this bunch of trees was a 15-footer.  It’s a little hard to see, but it is in the clearing in the center.

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We saw dozens of specimens in all sizes.  From little, about a foot long, to this one that is about 3-feet long.

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Then we had larger ones like this 12-footer.  One about this size jumped off a log into the water right next to the boat.  Sorry, I didn’t get a shot of that one, I was too busy checking my shorts.

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Our first stop was a crocodile farm where, for some crazy reason, they breed them so they can add more back into the wild.  The adults are kept paired in cages.  How’s this for a lovey-dovey pair.

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The eggs are taken and hatched away from the parents.  The babies are returned to pens after birth with others their size.  Apparently they learn early to be sun worshipers. 

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This guy took a dislike to me and charged out of the water, with mouth wide open and in my direction, at amazing speed. Once again, your fearless reporter didn’t get the shot because he was running in the opposite direction.

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We also had the opportunity to feed some really hungry fish.  We tossed some pellets into the water and they came swarming.

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We left the crocodile farm and went to a restaurant/swimming hole that was somewhere else in the park.  People were swinging out into the water on a trapeze.  The waterway was fenced to keep the crocodiles out. (I didn’t trust them.)  We had a late breakfast before we left the hotel, so we had a couple of beers and some chips.  From what we saw, the food looked really good, as it is most everywhere.

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On our return to the starting point, we spotted these huts that were erected as part of a movie set.  This is one place that I wouldn’t sign up to be an extra or double.

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Several trees had colorful, palm-like, parasitic growths about half way up the trunk.  We were generally moving to quickly to get a decent picture before they went out of sight or because the sun was in the wrong position.

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There are several other tours in the San Blas area, including some ruins, but be sure not t miss the jungle tour. (Take some insect repellent along.)