How to have the best ever weekend in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Stunning beaches right on your doorstep
Can you work remotely and have fun?
Contrary to popular belief, when you can work from anywhere you like in the world you do still have to work, even if you are in a popular holiday destination. And sometimes, you can find that a whole month has slipped away and you haven’t really ventured too far away from your desk.
As our departure from Mexico loomed we were gripped with the realisation that we had a month’s worth of fun to shoehorn into two days….Could we make it worth it?
Activity day 1:
In search of a waterfall
With limited time, and our abysmal Spanish leaving us little room for negotiation, we binned the plan of getting a water taxi around the Banduras Bay and hired a private boat for $60 for the afternoon from the small coastal town at the end of the highway, Bocas de Tomatlan. From there we cruised past glorious sandy coves and dodged hordes of menacing pelicans to arrive at the small village of Quimixto. Although rustic, this is no one horse town; there were loads of them, all patiently waiting to ferry us up the path to the waterfalls. I gingerly mounted my horse and felt incredibly precarious. Worse was to come because as soon as the horses began to amble across the river towards the ‘cascada’ signs (which they followed all the way up, clever nags), their owner scarpered in the opposite direction. Over his retreating shoulder he offered some last minute instructions about using my heels to make the horse go faster- a most unlikely scenario. Luckily our boat driver, Peto had firmly stated; ‘I come. Me, I like waterfalls’. I think he suspected leaving us to our own devices probably wasn’t a good idea.
Our first experience of riding a horse
The extreme horse-riding ordeal
As I perched as stiff as a cardboard cut-out my horse ploughed on, clip-clopping up narrow cobbled paths, picking its way down steep, uneven gullies, skidding hoof-deep in thick slimy mud and splashing across gravelly river beds. With Peto shouting, ‘lean back! Lean back or your face hits the ground first!’ I encountered the sort of tight turns and steep slopes you’d normally associate with a roller coaster. Chris, on the other hand, happily embraced his inner cowboy, leisurely taking photos, so comfortable he looked like he was only one step away from chewing ‘baccy. I sweated with anxiety, grazed my knees on the narrowly missed boulders and ducked his splatters of flying mud. At the end of the ordeal a beautiful waterfall materialised, where both horses and mount could bathe in clear pools. We ate nachos and dangled our feet in the cool water. The way down didn’t seem so bad, my whispered mantra of ‘I am one with this horse…’ seeming to help.
The next stop was far more tranquil, a beautiful beach to drink Coronas and dose under the shade of an umbrella.
Activity day 2:
Cooking like a Mexican
The main course – Shrimp in skewer, grilled with pineapple and glased with pineapple and chipotle sauce
As we arrived at the rendezvous point we spotted our host for the day, Mavi, dressed in her chef’s whites. We were quickly whisked us off to stock up on supplies. We started at the fish market, learning how to spot a fish who was swimming yesterday from one which has languished in a freezer for weeks and how to feel up a prawn to determine ‘fresh or farmed’. We sniffed fruit that smelt like cheese in the vegetable market and learnt how to choose from jalapenos from a habanera chilli. We stopped at the open air tortilla factory and ate one hot off the press with a delicious filling of creamy, light cheese. We tracked down the famer with the pineapple truck and selected key ingredients from the small shop bursting with sacks of spices, jars of herbs and racks of dried goods.
Our wonderful chef Mavi
Restaurant style feast at home
Back at Mavi’s stylish apartment she set to work preparing us a feast of never-ending food, offering nutritional tips and cooking advice as we munched through guacamole and two different types of ceviche whilst she whipped up shrimp skewers with a wonderful pineapple chutney, tamarind margaritas and chocolate and tequila truffles.
We learnt masses about Mexican cooking, and getting to enjoy food we had watched being created was like having a posh restaurant all to ourselves. The biggest take aways (apart from the food parcels we left with!) were how versatile chilli is; it can really enhance flavours from sweet to savoury in very unexpected ways and Mavi proved to us that it doesn’t just have to spell ‘hot’. The second thing is the way our buying decisions as we travel and at home have been influenced. We are more aware of the freshness of ingredients and conscious of shopping in a way which keeps money within the local community.
Could you help a turtle?
Run to the sea!
Eating and drinking all day is surprisingly tiring but we still made it out for our final activity- some feel-good conservation work. the beaches of Mexico are a favoured spot for turtles to lay their eggs- most of which get ransacked, if not by predators then by people who sell the eggs for their mythical Viagra like properties. Wildlife connection volunteers stalk the beaches by night to gather up the eggs once laid and bury them in designated protected areas. Forty five days later the eggs hatch and tiny turtles tunnel their way, blinking and weary out of the sand. This is where we came in.
The number of turtles who safely make it to the ocean and on to adulthood is a dismal 1 in 100, but with volunteers shining torches into their little faces (they think the light is the whites of the breakers) and herding them down the beach their odds go up to 2 in 100. The numbers may not sound impressive but it doubles their survival chances.
Come on little fella!
Some of these turtles aren’t the brightest in the bucket and flap round in circles instead of finding the shore. It’s these that have to be gently turned round and encouraged in the right direction. As the waves rush in some are swept out to sea but some get swept back up the beach, which can be exhausting for the poor little fellas. So they get a helping hand too. So although it may have looked like we were engaging in late night turtle racing for our own amusement, there was a higher purpose. And my goodness they were cute!
Despite not even nearly making the most of the time we have been here, the Jalisco area around Puerto Vallarta has tons to offer. We only wish we’d been able to make the most of it sooner.
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