Saturday, April 22, 2017

Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta

We got up early on April 14th to check out and load everything into the car.  Check out was quick but it took about 45 minutes to get the car from valet parking and a luggage cart up to the room.  The valet parking attendant could not figure out how to turn off the hybrid car and had the seat belt clicked in underneath him but Rosalind finally managed to show him to put the Prius into park and we turned it off so that he cold get out and let us load up and get on our way.

We left Pueblo Bonita about 8:30 am Mexican Mountain time - according to our lessons learned, we stuck to the toll roads from Mazatalan to Tepic on Mex 15D (the D is always a toll road). The tolls came to about 500 Pesos and the gas cost about 300 Pesos (helps to get 45+ MPG). About an hour before we got to Tepic, we needed a bathroom break.  We were on the toll road so we stopped at a Pemex gas station and it was not nice, garbage strewn around, they wanted 5 Pesos for the banos so we decided to push on, drove a couple hundred yards and noticed a nice modern toilets next to a Subway shop!  Hit the brakes as we were just entering the on ramp, backed up (thank god this is Mexico where traffic laws are merely a suggestion) and they were FREE and clean!  Once again the toll roads paid off!

At Tepic we filled up the Prius at Pemex (we have learned to ask first to make sure they accept VISA - "Acepta tarjeta VISA?"!) to keep from hitting the ATM all the time. Some of the Pemex stations don't accept VISA.  From Mazatlan to Tepic, the road slowly climbs from sea level to about a thousand meters elevation.  The mountains are part of the Sierra Madres and the road from Tepic to Puerta Vallarta (Mex 200) climbs another thousand meters plus and topped out about 2500 meters.
We were still getting pretty good fuel consumption, averaging around 46 mpg but of course it dropped down a bit with all the climbing up - then again what goes up must come down and it is mostly downhill from Tepic to the coast, hence this amazing fuel consumption that we noticed 42 miles outside of Tepic.

Its a 2 lane winding road with lots of truck traffic and no passing lanes and very few pull outs to let the cars by.  Although the speed limit is 80 kph most of the time you are traveling about 50 kph behind a big truck.  The scenery was beautiful but with all the traffic and winding road Gerald didn't get much of a chance to see it.  The further south we go, the more tropical and less desert the climate becomes.

A lot more farming is apparent nearer to PV and the main crops are sugar cane (yes Renae, some people make a living out of cane instead of beets), tomatoes, peppers, corn, watermelons and nuts.  The tomatoes and peppers appear to be started on plastic covered ridges.

As we got closer to Puerto Vallarta (PV) we saw lots of the usual roadside stalls and they all seemed to have mountains of coconuts and little white bags of what we later found our was salt, sea salt that is produced locally and very popular amongst the locals.  There was also some brown rugby ball shaped fruit that we have not seen before and we found out that it is mame, a type of melon that is very sweet and the flesh is the color of terra cotta.  The stalls vary from the very modest shacks selling everything from water, coffee, coconuts etc. to tamales and camaron (shrimp) and the more high class stalls that sell pretty much the same wares.

Closer to the coast some of the fruit stalls changed to stalls selling sombreros and sunglasses.  The house styles changed and once out of the narrow streets of the poorer neighborhoods we started seeing a lot of the beautiful flowering frangipani or plumeria trees (not sure yet what they call them here but those are the South African and Hawaiin tree names).

Local transportation brings back memories of early days in South Africa because open load boxes on pickups carry as many passengers as can fit or as needed.  Transport styles also vary according to the need.

Some of the stores make Hardin look ultra-modern.  This is how the hardware stores look in all the towns that we have been in so far,

The approach to PV is definitely more modern and affluent than the approach to Mazatlan - we didn't see much of the signs of poverty and shacks alongside the road and passed a very good looking airport and many of the big box stores that we have in USA.

Time zones... phone says Mexican Mountain time zone, locals say central time zone.  Time zones can be really tricky here because they appear to be more of a local preference rather than a geographical location.

Checked into Myan Palace Puerta Vallarta.  Internet is $20/day and they said its broken most of the time so we are trying to use free wifi where we can find it and its slim pickings so far.  Looks like we will have to buy extra data on the Telcel phone and use it as a WiFi hotspot.

Something about this place just didn't feel so good even though it is a nice suite with an actual bedroom, large couches and a full size dining table etc.  We just couldn't put our finger on it but over the last couple of days we have realized that getting hot water in the shower is not so easy (and very poor water pressure), the electric stove top never puts out enough heat to get a really good sizzling fajeta going, the hairdryer quits after about 30 seconds of use and the staff just aren't that friendly and helpful as we had in Mazatlan.  We also got coerced into attending the routine 'presentation' in order to get our wristbands (for room access) activated and get our room allocated. Our gifts for attending this waterboarding session (as we have come to call the high pressure sales sessions) were merely the promise of a refund on our parking fee, 10% reduction in the cost of any purchase on site, a free city tour (ah the memories of the orders to tip and the pressure to buy at each stop along the way) and the 'free breakfast' at the 'presentation'.  That was an absolute nightmare even though the breakfast was impressive, the whole event cost us over 6 hours and no-one would take no for an answer .. but wait if you don't like that we can give you a special deal (again involving lots more complicated price reductions and free weeks that would cost only about 2,300 USD).  I have to wonder how difficult it will be to get our parking refunded and how much this free tour (which we have already been told will cost us 5 USD each) will cost in tips etc.

We did pick up some tips between the lines from our incredibly talkative salesman so I guess we got more out of this than we have originally thought - he made comments about buying fruit from the mercados, advising that he never lets them cut into fruit that he is buying because of the possibility of hepatitis (or worse aids?) being transmitted from the knife into the fruit as the vendors often nick themselves as they are cutting fruit etc.  He also told us about the mame fruit that we had been seeing alongside the road.

The promised 'ocean view' upgrade room turned out to have a view over the gazing pond but beyond the swimming pool, if you know what you are looking for, you can catch a glimpse of the ocean through the trunks of the palm trees.  From what we can see, the room with true ocean views do not have a balcony - we do and it is a long balcony but it is too hot to sit out there.

Since we had been getting notified of voice messages etc. on the Mexico phone, we stopped into a Telcel store to figure out how to set the voice mail password and retrieve voice mails.  Its tricky when your spanish is poor and there is no English option.  They were very helpful and now we are set.  Rosalind's spanish is way ahead of mine but still not good enough to figure out what was being said.

Once again we stumbled on a Wal-Mart - this is a nice new one and the produce is good and the prices are even better.  All Wal-Marts seem to have awesome bakeries here and we have learned to go and get an aluminum tray and tongs so that we can select our items, take them to the attendants and get them bagged and priced.  We bought groceries enough for the week, including meat and some beer and wine for about $35 (US).  And we figured out the name of one of our favorite little pastry/cakes - Ojo de Buey which translates to "port hole cake" or "eye of the ox".  Its a crispy sweet bread shell with yellow cake mix inside (see photo in the Durango post).

The Marina opposite our resort is a beautiful place and we seem to be spending more time there than we are at the resort pool and beach - the beach here is however really nice for playing in the waves with smooth, white, fine sand, a good depth of water and not many of the beach vendors which are always patrolling the beaches with their wares.

OK going to get this posted while we have one of our brief moments of internet connection on the road, actually already in Zihuatenijo on way to Acapulco now so we are way behind on posts - more later.

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