Monday, 11 April 2016

Wrapping up Puerto Vallarta

Our 15 weeks here in Puerto Vallarta is coming to a close, so what has it been like to live with the Mexicans?

As I sit here writing this, there is Mexican music blaring from somewhere in the street, I can hear the lady talking in the condo across the road because they have their windows open and we have our bi-fold doors open. I learn some local costs, how much she pays her cleaner, the quote to paint her room. A dog occasionally barks. The pastry man calls out trying to sell his goods. Some builders are using a grinder. A few roosters crow as if they're communicating.

Car alarms go off in our neighbourhood most nights. It's the local boys playing soccer below just below our window. If the cars are new, it's not long before they have a few dents in their shiny exterior, and they don't look new anymore :( Most nights they play until 11pm, or someone is playing music or has their TV on, so we never plan on getting an early night's sleep.

a typical house in our street

Notice the gas meter at the front door. There is no mains gas, it's delivered in bottles or the gas truck just connects a hose onto the meter at the front; there must be a big tank somewhere inside. Our condo ran out of gas last Sunday, the only day the gas man doesn't work! No gas meant no hot water, no stove or barbeque. No problem, no walks today as we needed to have a shower before the hot water went cold or the condo below us used it up and then we went out for dinner.

Most Mexicans sit outside at night. The adults stand talking in doorways or people watch from a chair. The children sit on the pavement playing with their toys or colouring-in books. There's always constant chatter. It's probably more pleasant for them than being inside. Most houses are condos (flats/apartments) in a three to four story block. This leaves only the front and back walls for windows making it very dark inside, I can see inside as we walk past as the doors are often open. Some condos on the ground floor are lucky to have courtyards out the back. Most of the streets are one way and with the cobble stones and the occasional and unnecessary speed hump, the traffic doesn't travel very fast, so it's safe. We are very lucky that our condo has large windows in all the main rooms.

Many places are not finished... it's probably like Egypt, because then they will have to pay taxes

In the morning the cafe's lining the streets have their lights on, setting up before the sun is up to make breakfast for potential clients. Fresh juice, coffee, cake, pastries and yes tacos, which they seem to eat for all three meals of the day. Like Italian food in Italy and Chinese food in China, the tacos are not like what we are used to or make at home. At the street stalls they are a soft corn tortilla with a bit of pork/chicken/fish and some salsa, without the taco spices we love. At the Farmer's market you get a few more options, such as guacamole. A few men on our street wait for their morning ride, sitting on the pavement watching videos on their smartphones to fill in the time.


Further on people are sweeping leaves from in front of their stores or hosing down the pavement. Our condo has a tap just inside the front door for this purpose. While there is rubbish in some places, on the whole, they look after their space. Balconies are also hosed down and the water is swept off the side, bad luck if you're walking below!

Stork on the Cuale river

I often walk down the Isla Cuale around 7am, an island created by the splitting of the Cuale river. Suspension bridges of dubious construction offer a dryer alternative to walking across, and if anyone is walking heavily behind you, it's easy to lose your balance. We watched in amusement as one guy rode his scooter across. I often count the number of cats I can see both on the way down to the sea and again on the return leg, just to see if I get the same number. In the beginning I only saw 20-30, but you get better at spotting them and one day I counted 100, though most days there are around 70. One day there was a group of women with cat carriers and bags of dry food. So I asked one of them if they brought the strays to the island. She said no, that they run a free clinic that de sexes them. Just after this conversation further down the island, a lady got out of a taxi carrying two very heavy cat carriers...mmm.  She also told me that the Mexicans were threatening to kill them. 

Stray cat

The city put a sign up a few weeks ago which says that animal dumping is prohibited and the person responsible will be punished by working 300 days at minimum wage, which at present is 72 pesos a day, a pretty big disincentive. I know it's easier to have them all in one place, but there are just too many, so I'm with the city on this one. Every morning I see little piles of dry food delivered by a number of good samaritans and it makes me wonder if they live here or will they go home in a few weeks; for the sack of the cats, I'm hoping they're expats, so they live here. Puerto Vallarta has just been named the 10th most desirable place to retire.

The Iguanas sit high in the trees to warm up with the sun rays. This must be his home as we've seen this one in the same place a number of times. The only way we were able to photograph him is because there is a bridge that lets us be a few stories up.

And once we saw one walking across the footpath

The Malecon is a seaside walk. There are many statues, restaurants and shops. It is nearly empty now, the tourists have gone home. It will probably be bitter sweet; great that they have their town back, but the money has gone too.

Sand Sculptures
one of my favourites
There are two seahorse statues, one on the beach and one on the Malecon

The Pier
I'm sorry that our Australian friends are in an avocado drought at the moment and having to pay around $6 for one, they are only 28 pesos a kilo here which is about $A2.18/kg. Actually quite a few things here are sold by weight that are sold by the unit in other countries - eggs, all vegetables and washing if you get them to do it.

I just love the colour here

I left it too late to take some skyline shots of the hotels further up the coast. The number of tourists have dwindled and therefore not many rooms have their lights on. The first night we went down was abysmal, the pictures were dark and the buildings were specks. I really had no idea what I was doing, I had the wrong lens and we were too late. So the next night we went down at sunset with a bigger lens and I also did some research during the day on sort of what to do. I don't think there's a magic recipe, you just have to try different settings. I manually set my focus, aperture, speed and ISO. I don't shoot in manual very often, so it's a learning curve.

PV hotel zone

We are the only ones left in our condo, everyone else has left. We would have been gone too if I had been able to book this current place from the 1st of Feb, but it was already booked, so I just moved our two months to the 15th without even thinking about taking two weeks off.

In a short while we will embark on our next adventure - the North American North East coast. I've done quite a bit of research as we can't just wing it, which is my preferred mode of travel. Lindsay has been helping me find photo opportunities on 500px. It's busy over there and we will be homeless unless I book a few places, which I can't do until we know what date we have to leave. Definately feel out of my comfort zone. You can't stealth camp in a 35' 5th wheel, not that we really do anyway, challenges are definitely on the horizon. Here we come, ready or not.

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