Dream Shard Blog: The Scintillating Adventures of Our Household

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Apr '10

Vacation Days 7-8

Day 7

Wednesday was our first port stop: Puerto Vallarta. We had booked a hiking tour through a local tour company. It was the only hiking tour that welcomed children, so we went for it.

Once we disembarked the ship we took a taxi to Bike-Mex Tours (which was interesting since the taxi driver didn’t know the city’s street names; John ended up pulling out a map and explaining in Spanish where we needed to go).

Bike-Mex Tours doubled as a tiny storefront and the owner’s family’s living quarters. When I asked to use the restroom I was directed to a typical Mexican bathroom that was dirty and cob-webby, with a shower spicket hanging from the ceiling and the family’s four toothbrushes in a dirty container by the sink. But at least the toilet flushed, and there was toilet paper.

Our tour guide (and store owner) was Oscar. He provided us with water bottles and a hip pack to carry them in. We set off on our hike by walking through a part of the city until we came to a bus stop. John carried Wes on his back.

The bus took us out of Puerto Vallarta and up through some villages and into the mountains. By riding a real Mexican bus we got the real Mexican experience. The bus was dusty and bumpy. It drove on twisty, steep roads that no bus in the U.S. would ever consider. It blew a tire on the mountainside, but the driver got out, looked at it, and determined we could keep going, so we did. This video was taken on our way home.

Once we got off the bus we hiked along a dirt road until we came to the Rio Cuale (Cuale River). Oscar knew some people who lived along the way, and we stopped a couple times to meet them and see their homes, animals, and gardens.

The jungle was pretty.

It was also very hot. We kept reapplying sunscreen and tried to stay in the shade when we could.

Once we started hiking along the river the temperature cooled and felt much more pleasant. Wes fell asleep.

The scenery around the river was beautiful. Oscar would stop and point out lizards, birds, and interesting plants. We saw one plant called Mimosa that was sensitive to touch and would close when you touched it.

The trail required us to wade across the river three times. The first time we went over with bare feet, but the next time we pulled out our water shoes because the river bottom was covered with rocks. Wading in the water was my favorite part–the river was warm and clear.

We paused for lunch (sandwiches made by Oscar’s wife, fresh oranges, and soda) by a swimming spot in the river. I didn’t swim, but I got to wade some more.

The one negative about this place was all the Mexican mosquitoes. They seemed to sense our foreign blood and went crazy on us. Even with insect repellent on, Koby, Alicia, and John all got bitten a lot. I didn’t fare so badly, with just a few bites on my arms, but Alicia’s legs looked like she had a skin condition. Oscar built a fire to help repel the insects.

We enjoyed the hike back (Wes slept the whole way, strapped to John). Overall, we got to see a unique aspect of Puerto Vallarta and we were glad we could do something semi-active even with our young kids.

However, we were TIRED by the time we got back on board, and that night John and I got a massage at the spa. Ahhhhhhhh, it was nice.


Thursday we stopped in Mazatlan. We had booked a tour with Mazatlan Frank, which I had read great reviews about on the forums at cruisecritic.com. And we weren’t disappointed. Compared to the arduous nature of our hike the previous day, a day spent in an air-conditioned van being chauffeured to different sites was terrific.

We went first to Mazatlan’s most historic cathedral. Frank dropped us off so we could take a look inside. There were a lot of tourists, but also some actual worshipers praying near the front.

From there we walked down the street to the marketplace where there were vendors of all sorts, obviously a place meant primarily for locals and less for tourists. We walked through the open-air meat market where we saw stuff like peeled pigs’ head and chicken feet. Also, it smelled exactly like the Farmland Foods factory I worked at as a teenager (i.e., NOT good).

Next Frank drove us to the coast to watch the cliff divers. These young men jump from a height of about 45 feet into a rocky, shallow part of the ocean. It’s their job. They make their money off the tourists, which, you can see, there are a lot of.

Frank drove us next to Old Mazatlan and walked us around the area. Once the Golden Zone (think tourist area) was built a few decades ago the older part of the city became more run down. But now it’s being fixed up and is a quaint and historic place to visit. We stopped in at an art store where my friend Alicia and I both bought some inexpensive jewelry.

Frank also took us to the Golden Zone to The Silver Bucket store. Obviously he was getting some kind of kick-back from taking us there, but I didn’t mind because the store had free non-alcoholic pina coladas, cookies, and restrooms.

From there we went to Tony’s on the Beach for lunch. It was kind of expensive (about $14 for an entree), so John and I split the steak fajita plate and a bottle of Sprite. This was the only actual Mexican food we ate while in Mexico. I was not disappointed. It may not look so great in the picture, but trust me, it was delicious. And the homemade salsa was amazing.

Wes looks sad in the picture above because he had been sleeping in John’s arms but was woken abruptly and unhappy about it.

We had a picturesque view while we ate.

After lunch we strolled down to the beach and played. Wes was totally content to sit and dig in the sand with the toys we brought. I couldn’t even get him to the water to dip his toes in the ocean.

The weather was perfect, the ocean was beautiful. We enjoyed this time.


Before heading back to our ship Frank took us to Mega, which is like a Super Wal-Mart. John and I went to Mega last year when were in Mexico, and I remembered how much I liked the bakery. It’s different than bakeries in the U.S. where food is carefully covered. Here, all the varieties of bread and pastries are in the open air. You pick up a silver plate and some tongs and select which items you want. Then you take it to the counter where they weigh and wrap your purchases. I wasn’t hungry when we walked through the Mega bakery, but it made my mouth water anyway.

We had a really good time seeing Mazatlan with Frank. The other family in our group went to a spa while we were at the beach and got a 60-minute massage for just $15 per person. Maybe next time…

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