Since I haven’t been keeping up with this vacation, I thought I would try to start from Day 1 and try to recreate it from the beginning. It may not get finished but here’s a start anyway.
Saturday, January 6
We left Ajijic in the morning—not early but not late. We had unloaded most of the things we had boxed up from the house and put them in the storage room by the garage at our own house. James had evidently had Ricky clean it up and get it ready for us so we had plenty of room. We were staying with a friend, Jan Braverman, who lives just a few blocks from us in Ajijic. We left some things at her house that we didn’t want to store in the garage bodega (the Mexican word for storage room). We only packed with us the clothes we would need here, some food, Daisy’s stuff, etc.
Beautiful day as always, especially this time of year. Everyone there had been complaining about how cold it had been—chilly at night (as low as upper 40s) but warm in the daytime, 70s.
There’s a new bypass to the west and north that we picked up well south of the airport. As you get well past Guadalajara, the highway turns more westerly and it’s a beautiful drive—mountains and green valleys. We were high on the side of a mountain range and could see the town of Tequila below us. One day we’re going to take a trip there. Less than 3 hours or so, we began the road begins to climb steeply because that’s the only way to get over the Sierra Madre to get to the coast. Then the steep descent to turn to the south on the road that bypasses all the villages on the west coast. These used to be small, simple fishing villages, but as Puerto Vallarta developed to the north, that expansion helped turned the villages into cheaper and less tourist-jazzy than PV. We got to San Pancho (real name San Francisco) in about 4 ½ hours.
Once we got to San Pancho, very small, there’s one main street that leads directly to the beach on the ocean. We remembered that but remarked on how many more shops and restaurants than from 9 years ago. Turning north, parallel to the ocean, we took the road that leads up and up to get to the bluffs higher above. The road hasn’t changed at all. It’s about 2 ½ miles on a windy, twisty dirt road—passable for two cars in some places but not all. Along this road as you rise above the town are properties of varying sizes, but you can’t see them since they’re all situated on the west side, that overlooks the ocean. With Susan’s directions and our dim memory of before, we managed to find the villas again.
The road actually ends there at the top, then there’s a very narrow road that twists down the western slope. Along this smaller road (which is a small community of half a dozen properties), you’re surrounded by the jungle with coconut and date palms, tall trees similar to rubber trees, and very thick undergrowth. At the end of the road (again) are the villas. There’s a wide parking area, a two-story building with a garage and storage/laundry room below and one of the palapas above on the second floor. From this vantage, you can hear the ocean but can’t see it. A brick path of steps and walkways leads down to the two other palapa villas and the large common area palapa. Each of these are along the brick path through the jungle, dropping down one by one. Ours, Iguana, is on the left with Sunflower (the large one) just below. Along the west side of Sunflower are two decks, the pool, and the path continues to the third palapa, Mariposa, with the steps continuing down the steep slope to the small beach and huge rocks below, where the breakers smash in.
Picture (not from us) of what the bluffs look like, looking back from the ocean.
Our first impression was of shabbiness. The outdoor furniture—well, it’s all outdoors—appeared to be the same furniture and cushions as when we were here before. On the top deck, same level as the common area and kitchen, are white resin tables and chairs with very sad-looking cushions. On the deck below, the infinity pool looked the same, sparkling and inviting. (Whoever invented the idea of infinity pools was brilliant.) The edge of the pool fades into the vista of the Pacific. But around the pool, again, were ugly white resin lounge chairs with faded cushions that were probably new in 2008. Inside the main palapa, the kitchen looked pretty much the same, except the oven door is rusty and the small appliances in need of cleaning and/replacement. The dining room table was surrounded by 6 chairs with faded seat cushions and chair backs whose veneer was visibly peeling—badly and so ugly. We were pretty shocked at the condition.
Our palapa was the same, two double beds with mosquito netting but ok as far as comfort. The bathroom similar with sink, toilet, and shower. There are walls for privacy there but the top of the walls open into the high palapa roof. Again, no real difference.
Time to fix dinner. But first, I had to clean the surfaces in the kitchen, unplug the toaster and coffee maker to clean them thoroughly and wash whatever pans we were using. The grill we had enjoyed so much before was ok (outdoors, after all), but the basket for fish or whatever was rusty and unusable. There was wood for the grill but not mesquite as we had before.
At this point we were very disappointed and embarrassed because we had friends arriving the next day. We took notes, made a list, and got ready for bed. And that’s when I discovered the mildew-smelling pillows. I. Hate. The. Smell. Of. Mildew. But we set up Daisy’s kennel to block the open entrance to the palapa and went to bed. We were not happy campers. And by the way, some people may remember how much I hate camping.
Nevertheless, we had little choice. The closest real hotel that takes pets is the Westin in Nueva Vallarta, about an hour away. So we went to sleep with the glorious sound of the surf breaking below.
So far, only a couple of positive things: the incredible view and the sound of the waves about 150 ft below.
To be continued.