Saturday, February 12, 2011

Port 6: Puerto Vallarta

We disembarked at Puerto Vallarta and piled onto a bus that would take us along the coast and into the mountains. We stopped halfway there to marvel at the coastline.

A day of ziplining was awaiting us. We suited up and began the path of 14 ziplines.

On the trail between ziplines. It was more than a little exhilarating to hook in and coast over trees and rivers through the Mexican jungle.

Daniel's nephew Sean coming in for a landing. Can you see how long the line is? I've been ziplining before, but never for such expanses.

The whole group geared up and ready to go.

Afterward, we sat by the river and watched others swim in the freezing water.

The ziplining establishment had a little animal hut with tiny monkeys like this one.

There were some wild animals, too—including these iguanas we spotted.

We rode the bus back to the town and walked the streets, stopping for fish tacos and carne asada for dinner.

We found the last cathedral of the trip. They were one of my favorite parts of each city we visited.

We strolled along the beachfront malecón, taking in the sights of the city.

Right before sunset, we caught these acrobats, who climbed to the top of this pole, wound themselves up, and then spiraled down in unison.

The sunset along the beach was fantastic.

Statues lined the waterfront. Daniel took the opportunity to interact with this one.

We spent our last pesos on a jamaica drink and some caramel-like candies. Then it was back to the ship for a couple of days at sea, and our final port—San Diego.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Port 5: Mazatlan

Daniel's dad had arranged in advance for us to take a van tour of Mazatlan. Mazatlan Frank picked us up from the port and took us to the northernmost edge of town and back, giving us an idea of the rich, the touristy, and the working class. It was an enlightening trip.

We stopped inside the cathedral in the middle of town and marveled at its sheer size.

The cathedral was adjacent to a popular shopping area, and we walked through the rows and rows of vendors.

We watched the cliff divers ply their trade. That man perched at the top of the stairs plunged into a shallow dive at the bottom of those rocks.

We walked the streets of Old Mazatlan, an area that has been restored and rejuvenated in recent years.

A theatre in Old Mazatlan.

We stopped by the home of an artisan couple that doubles as their gallery. I was excited to see the saltillo tiles that we have at home paving their floors.

The roof of their house contained a fantastic mosaic wall.

An example of the beautiful restoration. Mazatlan Frank explained to us that the bars on the windows, present on almost every single house we saw, were not so much a reaction to violence as a cultural tradition born out of the need to keep the doors and windows open during the hot months.

We headed up to a beach well-known for its surfing and could see the city stretch back southward along the coast.

After this, we drove through a gleaming gated community, perfectly groomed everything and white, white mansions repeated over and over, cars with American license plates sitting in the driveways. And then we headed over to the working class areas where, Frank explained, people begin with small single-level homes and eventually save up enough money to build another level on top of their flat roofs, a project he was currently in the middle of. The houses were much more colorful.

We ended the day with a sunset overlooking an island.

The whole group!

And back on the ship, we gathered once more for dinner and company.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Port 4: Topolobampo

When we stepped off the ship, a vast swath of asphalt spread before us. A giant billboard of taxi fares stood upon it. We decided to take our chances and walk.

The tiny, tiny town of Topolobampo (population 250?) was a mile or two away. We strolled the streets and encountered a decidedly untouristy village.

An extensive market was set up, with piles of vegetables, slabs of fresh meat (with the occasional cow head), and a little family of chickens, among other things.

When we were satisfied with our Topolobampo experience, we sought out a bus that would take us to Los Mochis, a larger city about forty-five minutes away. The tour guide we read beforehand had warned of the desolation between the two towns, including thirteen-foot crocodiles that apparently made it uninhabitable. We didn't see any of those rush by on our bus ride, but we did see the lonely expanses.

We were quite proud of the paltry 16 pesos we paid for our bus fare, about $1.20 and far below the $20+ a taxi would have been.

Los Mochis was a full-fledged city. We located a Best Western and put the laptop we had lugged along to good use in the hotel lobby. Living without internet access on this trip was rough; we spent a good hour and a half there catching up. We then traipsed about the city, wandering through shops and grabbing some fish tacos from a street vendor.

I don't know why this place was called El Debate, but it was ripe for a debate pose from Daniel.

We located the cathedral and peeked inside.

We successfully navigated the streets and found our bus stop again for our return trip. Those are bins of herbs and spices behind us, each labeled with the ailments and diseases it promised to cure.

Back in Topolobampo, I was ready to tromp back to the ship. But Daniel had seen a church on the top of a hill, and he insisted it would take fewer than ten minutes for us to reach it. I didn't believe him, but lo and behold, he was right.

We made our way past all manner of houses, and we enjoyed the view at the top.

If you click on this picture, you might be able to make out the white cross at the top of the hill, marking the church. This is a view of the hill on our way back to the ship.

A fiesta was waiting for us on that asphalt expanse. We watched a group of children, herded by nuns, as they had their way with the piñata.

And we returned, exhausted but well-traveled. We walked a good four hours, which probably puts us around ten miles on foot. It was a good day.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Port 3: Guaymas

In Guaymas, we piled into a shuttle to get from the port to the city proper. Daniel's nephews are in the foreground here.

The church lay in the center of town, adjacent to a square that would later fill with an ice rink and a band.

We walked the streets, getting a feel for the "gritty" town that the tour guide told us to expect.

We discovered the historical bank building that Lonely Planet said someone should hurry up and restore.

I don't know what this means, but it looked pretty gritty.

Daniel got a couple of funny stares for his headband, which I had crocheted him (we just happened to wear matching crochet accessories that day). I enjoyed it to no end.

We realized, walking through the streets and seeing pastries called "Rosca de Reyes," that the date was January 6, Epiphany. It explained the remaining Christmas decorations—for traditional Christians, the Christmas season wasn't over yet.

Daniel and I noticed the town library and decided to check it out.

It turned out to be a single room with a relatively small collection. We were very excited about the liberation theology book we found.

Along the waterfront, little boats were docked.

We rested for a while before Daniel's dad suggested we take a boat tour around the harbor.

The boat was cozy, and our tour guide was quite friendly.

We motored past tightly packed shrimping boats.

The islands in the harbor were completely coated in cacti. Eagles perched on the whitened tops.

A fort from a nineteenth-century war remained on one of the shores.

We set sail early in the evening, so we gathered on the deck to watch the launch.