El Diablo Rises

Another day, another beautiful walk to Art VallARTa to continue my work on El Diablo.

The devil was covered in a plastic bag overnight to be kept flexible for further operations this morning. The first order of business was to add a protruding chin to the face, using a separate piece of clay which was then massaged into the correct shape.

I cut lines into the forehead to prepare the surface for eyebrows. After rolling out two small amounts of clay to the correct size, the eyebrows were attached and Froyland helped me to shape and mold them.

We added lines to indicate the brow and wrinkles between the eyes.

El Maestro seems to have been pleased so far!

The next step was to affix the horns; first small holes had to be pierced in the temples of the mask, then the horns attached with slip.

Froyland demonstrated how to attach the horns, holding the mask so that it would not crack as the heavy material was added. I also added cheekbones.

So far, so good. Froyland is working on a couple of vessels featuring imaginary undersea creatures.

As we were working, others continued with their projects, scarves and silk paintings and glazing ceramics.

Since the devil is a master of the art of temptation, Froyland thought that he needed a cigarette …

Small towers of clay were placed under the horns to support them as I worked on the finishing details of El Diablo’s face.

 

The Devil is in the Details: The Evolution of El Diablo at Art VallARTa

I am so happy that Art VallARTa  studio in the Old Town is fully functional now and doing so well. Monday Ty and I went for a visit and Nathalie showed me around what is now a well-equipped large studio and gallery space.

The theatre is also well set up with cushions and blankets for the weekly life drawing sessions held there. The 2nd annual Romance in the Romantic Zone exhibition of art on the theme of love drew four hundred people to its opening night, offering, in addition to framed two dimensional pieces, ceramic and glass wear, and a gigantic wall mural of a heart, a tunnel of love installation through which visitors walked to gain entry to the show – fantastic! wish I could have been there. Nathalie’s piece is the Love Roulette wheel below.

On Monday a large group of folks were painting water colours in one part of the space while a few others worked on clay projects in the high-ceiling multi-media area.

I have decided to take a ceramics course offered by Froyland Hermandez, a Mexican clay maestro, and attended the first class today. Froyland is a very experienced artist who is very patient with newcomers to the medium.

He is able to explain all aspects of the technique clearly and is very patient, particularly with people like me who are not the best students. I have tried wheel-throwing before, and while I enjoyed Charmian Nimmo’s class, realised soon that it was not for me, given that I don’t really have the arm and shoulder strength necessary to centre and raise the clay higher than about two inches off the wheel. Makes for a rather limited repertoire of objects that can be made, essentially small candy bowls. Although I did make one bowl that I was quite happy with, the only one that did not have walls that were way too thick and heavy.

I decided instead to try hand-building since I am interested in sculpture and particularly like masks. Froyland showed me how to wedge and prepare the clay correctly and how to roll it out like dough ready to be used. After deciding that I wanted to make a mask, Froyland prepared an armature of bubble wrap and tape around which we placed my rolled out piece of clay.

From this humble beginning the mask grew and took shape. After scoring the surface to indicate where the facial features would go, El Diablo, the devil, was begun by pressing indentations for the eyes and mouth, being careful not to press too hard so as to break or crack the clay’s surface.

For the eyes, I rolled two balls of clay which were placed into the indentations, then scored the surface around each eyeball to accommodate the bits of clay that would form the eyelids. these pieces were rolled out and placed above and below the eyeballs then massaged and stroked with wooden tools to create what eventually looked like a pretty decent set of eyeballs.

Next I created a free-standing nose from a separate lump of clay which was kept flexible by being covered with plastic. Two tusks and several teeth followed, each made by rolling out a cone of clay, first using my hands and then the surface of the table.

This process was trickier that I thought it would be; some of the teeth rolled out too long and thin, while others were too big and thick. Getting a few teeth the right size took quite a bit of time, as did getting the two tusks the right dimensions and curvature. These were carefully placed in the mouth indentation so I could get an idea of what the finished mouth would look like. Having decided that they were good, I then scored the bottom of each tooth, and the area of surface on which each would sit, and attached them with slip, very liquid clay.

I was very excited about the horns. These were made with cones of clay rolled out, like the tusks, first with my hands and then on the table top. Froyland and I had a bit of discussion about what kinds of horns would be appropriate. I didn’t really care but he thought bull’s horns would be best so I took his advice.

He believes that, when working on an object from nature, such as a face, one should look at the details of the face, or, in this case, the horns, to see what they are actually like, rather than simply making something up that doesn’t necessary correspond with the actual “thing”. So the horns took a bit of work to get the right dimensions and curvature. Froyland cautioned me not to put the horns on too quickly because they’re heavy and might crack the piece. I am looking forward to completing the mask tomorrow.

While I was crafting El Diablo, Kelly, a former air traffic controller from the States, was working on a wheel-thrown lidded vessel, on top of which she planned to affix a snail and two sea turtles.

To my right Rosemary, from Lethbridge, painted glaze on her projects, a head with small legs on top, and a mask, for her synchronised swimmer grand-daughter.

At another table several others worked with Carol Ann on silk-painting, a process that also looked very interesting. Some of those folks wore beautiful fused glass bracelets made at another workshop with Carol Ann.

Below, El Diablo so far!

After a hard several hours slaving over my clay piece, I met Ty down by the pier and we spent a very pleasant few hours under a palapa at the beach, including a refreshing dip in the ocean, the first one this year. Had the best guacamole and chips with hot salsa ever at the Mahi Mahi Beach bar with excellent service – highly recommended.

See more photos here.

South Side Strolling

Every second Friday night is the South Side Shuffle along Basilio Badillo. Some of the venues have changed from last year; Kathleen Carillo’s gallery has moved around the corner to Constitucion St and the Color Pod lady has packed up her palm fronds, left PV, and gone back to Florida.

However, the main galleries along here, Galeria Dante, Ambos Galeria and Contempo Gallery, are still rolling and bringing in the crowds, at least as long as the vino doesn’t run out …

Live music still gets the crowd going and adds to the festive ambiance. I particularly love the outdoor sculpture courtyard at Dante – I could sit there for a very long time – it is extremely pleasant.

I also really enjoyed meeting a small Mexican hairless dog in front of Cassandra Shaw’s jewellery shop. Poor old Ty has been fighting a cold for the last few days so unfortunately he was not well enough to join in this time.

Some of the things I love about this place are interesting roof lines, including this imitation Greek temple across the street from us, and cupolas;

skeletons and skulls, found all over the town;

angels, including this beauty at the Hacienda San Angel in Gringo Gultch;

dogs and cats, including these guys on Los Muertos beach;

and cold cervesas under an umbrella.

In my desire to be living “local” in PV, I had forgotten some of the idiosyncrasies of living in a typical Mexican neighbourhood. Let me give you an idea of what these are:

1) The small cluster of buildings in which we are staying which seemed so quiet when we arrived is now the site of a small-scale construction operation. Two guys showed up two days ago with jackhammers and buzz saws and proceeded to generate an enormous racket while presumably installing plumbing in two of the empty apartments. And, since PV does not seem to have any noise regulations, or at least none that are enforced, who knows how many days and hours this will go on.

2) Doggies and roosters I have already mentioned; there are several in the immediate vicinity. One rooster gets going at 2:30 am.

3) Our first Friday night in the Old Town was last night and it brought all new noise joys, above and beyond what we have already experienced. About 11:30 pm a blast of music startled us when a mariachi band, from the volume seemingly right in our living room, but actually on the street just around the corner, began playing at full volume to the delight of the local youth whose cries of joy added to the general mayhem. Then, around 3 am, when the mariachi band had finally finished their set, the tourist folks down the block, who’d obviously been having a few brews, began blasting their music at a thousand decibels, while screaming, yelling, and fighting, until 4:45 am. Even the animal noises disappeared into the background with all the commotion. Viva Mexico! Viva la difference!

** I realise that the whole noise issue is a cultural thing – we come from a culture of large houses (mostly) and concrete condos which mute neighbouring noises. Mexicans, at least those who are not wealthy, mostly grow up with lots of noise in the neighbourhood, houses that lie very close together with not much in the way of sound-proofing, and are accustomed to being surrounded with lively, noisy activity day and night.

One of the benefits of staying in this area is the plethora of local bars and restaurants; below is Que?Pasa just down the road from us. Here live music entertains the crowd seven nights a week and they do have delicious tortilla soup.

The Emilano Zapata farmers market is the place to buy food in this area, with several fruit and vegetable tiendas and a central area of butcher stands, as well as this little taco stand just outside.

Mid-day today, though, the scent from the meat stalls was too ripe for my sensitive nose.

While we were strolling around the area a tiny beautiful butterfly took advantage of my hat to hitch a ride. After riding around with us for quite some time, and showing no inclination to fly off, I gently swept it off my hat and onto a welcoming flower branch nearby.

See more here.

Puerto Vallarta seaside

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We are very happy to be staying right near the Isla Cuale, the green heart of Puerto Vallarta’s south side. Almost all of the restaurants and bars that formerly occupied this neck of the woods have closed over the last few years, leaving their empty shells as homes to the feral cats that roam around the island. However, this year a new restaurant has popped up, Eddie’s on the River – we haven’t tried it yet but apparently it has good live music on Tuesday nights.

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We have decided that the best way to get down to the ocean is to stroll under the shady trees of the Isla Cuale rather than along the hot, dusty cobblestones of the Zona Romantica, now that it’s about 29 degrees out.

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I guess that we no longer stand out as tourists, since very few of the vendors tried to sell us anything as we rolled past. Today on the Malecon a lovely breeze moderated the heat and we enjoyed walking north to the church, stopping every once and a while to do some power people- and pelican-watching. The beast photographed above chases people off his turf in front of the seafood sales shack with alacrity.

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One thing that does surprise us about the main square here in front of the church is that there are no restaurants or bars, with the exception of a Starbucks on one corner which we have no particular interest in frequenting. Other than that the only action this morning was the shoe-shine guys and a couple of jewellery vendors sitting in the shade.

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Once back on the boardwalk again heading south, we stopped for a cervesa at Cuales y Cuetes, next to the new pier, and then planted ourselves sandside at Ritmos Cafe on the south end of Los Muertos beach.

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Along with the usual jet skies and parasailing options, a new fun in the sea activity, fly-boarding, is being offered here. We watched a couple of people give it a go, not having much success at getting further out of the water than about three feet. To me, it does not look that interesting …

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As you can see from these photos, erosion continues to be a problem on the beaches of Mexico. High tide creates a cliff drop-off of about three feet at this end of Los Muertos which these workers are sandbagging in an attempt to keep the beach from being washed away.

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The usual cast of characters were out in force, the tiny women in Mayan dress selling trinkets and jewellery, the men trying to sell Ty pipes and smoke, the guys wanting to regale us with “information” of various kinds, the tour sellers, and cheeky crow-like flying beasts.

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We really like our neighbourhood; the gas man drives past every hour or so, honking and playing his horse-racing music, the water man rolls up on his bicycle with trailer of gigantic water bottles, and the young guys in their muscle cars with very loud stereos serenade us late at night and early in the morning, competing with the chickens and dogs.

See a few more pics here.

Greetings from Puerto Vallarta!

After a 2:30 am wake-up for trip to the airport, Ty and I were out on the sidewalk at 3:20 waiting for our pre-booked-the-night-before yellow cab; as time ticked past and still the taxi did not appear, we were starting to get very anxious. A passing driver, seeing me pacing along the sidewalk, had the presence of mind to realise that we were waiting for a ride that hadn’t come, picked us up and whisked us off for an on-time arrival.at the Air Canada desk for our early morning departure.

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We are staying in the Zona Romantica, Old Town Puerto Vallarta, in a great local neighbourhood right next to the river and the Cuale Cultural Center. “Our” street, Aquiles Serdan, is one of the only streets in the old city on which the great rumbling buses do not run, so it is quieter than other areas.

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That it not to say that it is quiet, though; since we are in a typical Mexican neighbourhood, we are treated to the sounds of loud TV shows emanating from the neighbours’ apartments, the yells and car honks of the passing gas man, the cries of the water vendor, the barking of the many dogs, and the strenuous crowing and cock-a-doodle-doing of the next door rooster. We have not yet had a night of uninterrupted sleep but perhaps it will happen as we get used to the various noises of the city.

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Our studio apartment is on the second floor of a small three storey building; it is cute and clean, with a couple of large easy chairs, the tiniest ever wall-mounted flat screen TV (which I don’t watch) and a very hard bed. The kitchen is fully-equipped with everything we need to cook our usual fare. On the roof is a shared deck with a table and four worse for wear leather bucket chairs which offers nice views out over the neighbourhood. Just across the street, on the neighbour’s rooftop, is a very funny small black dog who patrols the deck, rushing to and fro barking at anyone who comes along the street, a very officious beast.

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In this area are many small tiendas, bars, local eateries and food stalls, including our favourite roast chicken stand, and the farmers market, with several butchers and vegetable and fruit vendors. We are slowly easing into the daily life here and really enjoying getting to know the area. It is a balmy 25 degrees with a gentle breeze most days – yippee!

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Art in Iassos

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Friday morning we had an all day excursion to the ruined Greco-Roman city of Iassos, about an hour and a half north of Gokcebel. We rolled out in a convoy of two vehicles, heading through Torba, past Guvercinlik, past the atrocious monstrosity of an illegal hotel put up by Erdogan and his people, up and over a mountain, down the other side to the back of beyond – Iassos – passing forests of dry brown korek plants on the way. A former Roman city with a small harbour, Iassos is only partially excavated. Apparently it will rival Ephesus when it’s finally done many moons from now. We had a cup of tea at the fish restaurant fronting the harbour, with a view of the Byzantine Palace floating on the water, and then headed with all our painting gear to select a site for the next painting project.

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People stationed themselves throughout the agora, picking a place from which a good perspective view could be seen. Eljay wanted us to execute a small thumbnail sketch, and then a painting or pastel drawing focusing on perspective.

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I found a spot under an olive tree facing the bouleterion, a small theatre-like space used by the senate in Roman times, and did a painting of the recession of columns and the green hills in the distance. Most found this assignment a bit tricky, perspective being something that usually does not come easily. However, everyone gave it a go and it was interesting to see the variety of results. A couple of small tortoises wandered through our group and I saw several black lizards darting among the rocks; while walking across the stones, I was stung by some kind of insect but luckily it did not swell up – just hurt for a few moments.

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Due to its location, its marble and fishing, Iassos had been inhabited since the earliest days of the history. The city was founded by Greek colonists coming from Argos in the 9th century BC and then inhabited by immigrants from Miletus. In addition, Italian archaeologists have found Minoan houses and Mycenaean pottery which indicates that the site had been inhabited at much earlier date than arrival of the Greeks.

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The digs started 1960s reveled that oldest part of Iassos was on the top of Acropolis hill, later taken over by the Byzantine fortress. These show some similarities between the Crete, Greece and Anatolian cultures. The chief divinities of Iassos were Apollo and Artemis. One of the inscriptions discovered in Iassos mentions Artemis Astias, apparently a mixture of the old Carian deity Goddess and Artemis the hunter. Her temple had an unroofed cella. As well, the theatre and festivals arranged for Dionysus show the importance of the god Dionysus in Iassos. More info and pictures of Iassos here.

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Later in the afternoon, after a huge meal of meze, salad, fries, and fish, some people walked up to the acropolis to see the mosaics, others dipped their feet in the harbour, and Lidia, Eljay, and I drove to the little museum, hoping to get a look at the artifacts removed from the ruin site; however, it was closed and no-one about to open the door. After gathering everyone up, we were off down the road in the setting sun to close another great day here on the peninsula.

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The Eagle Has Landed in Gokcebel

Well, I had been stressing for quite a few days about my upcoming flight to Turkey. I had purchased the ticket on Ty’s tablet while we were in Mexico; I was angry with myself because, on its tiny screen I had difficulty reading the information and, even though I had said to myself “That flight is one I definitely don’t want because it has such short transfer times”, in fact that stupid flight was exactly the one I clicked on in my rush to buy the ticket. Visions of being left behind in Amsterdam as my KLM flight to Istanbul was winging its way eastward danced in my head, and not in a nice way, either.

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I attempted to check-in online the day before the flight, but because I hadn’t entered the passport information when I bought the ticket (because my passport, inconveniently, was expiring), half way through the process I discovered that without this crucial bit of info, I could not check-in online. Nor could I select a seat, another thing that I had wanted to do so that I could make sure of getting a spot on the aisle close to the front of the plane for speedier exit … sigh. Major cock-up.

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So … I got to the airport four hours early, checked in at the self-serve kiosk, and found out that my assigned seat was a middle seat right in the back of the plane (of course). Luckily, because I was so early I was able to change my seat at the kiosk to a more congenial row 26 aisle seat …. closer to the target. Even more happily, the plane left on time, and, since it wasn’t full, I was able to move to an even more strategic seat on the aisle row 16. We had a smooth flight over the North Pole and arrived in Amsterdam a bit early; I leapt out of my seat the moment the seat belt sign was turned off and hustled myself and my carry-on bag down the hallway to my connecting flight, already boarding at a gate somewhere far away … after a speed walk through the terminal I arrived at a long line sneaking its way through the security clearance with 5 minutes to spare before the gate closed – huzzah!

Unfortunately, the Istanbul flight left late and confronted strong head winds on the way east, Ataturk International was exceptionally busy, with every gate full of planes and others waiting to taxi in, and we had to wait to park at the gate. When I had originally booked the Bodrum flight, I had had enough time to transfer, but the airline had changed the departure time twice after I had already purchased the ticket, each time moving it earlier. As a consequence, I had only one hour to get off the KLM plane, through passport control, into the domestic terminal, and onto the next plane … Once again the mad dash down the airport hallways, rushing past folks clogging up the moving sidewalks, only to arrive at an unbelievably crowded passport control point, full of a surging mass of international humanity. Unlike other big airports – Mexico City, for example, where people with connecting flights can go through a separate streamlined transfer passport control process – here everyone has to trudge through the same slow snake of a line towards the control booth – scheisse! It was not at all looking good for my connecting flight to Bodrum. While I walked slowly through the line, the group of eastern European men behind me kept trying to budge into line in front of me; not feeling very charitable and not willing to ignore it, I told them that actually I was ahead of them and proceeded to push my way past them as the minutes ticked inexorably by.

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After receiving a desultory look at my visa and a loud clang of a stamp in my new passport, I raced through Ataturk International in the direction of the Domestic Terminal, along a seemingly interminable series of hallways as the time was running out and “Last Call” for the Bodrum flight flashed on the Departure screen. By this time I was a ball of sweat, and the ol’ legs were not as strong as they might have been. I was losing steam and starting to give up on making the flight. But with a superhuman effort I ran up to the Atlasjet counter yelling “Bodrum – help!”. An employee took pity on me, I was tossed a boarding pass, conducted to the front of the security line, through screening, had my bag carried down to the bus, radioed the plane that I was on my way and the door held open for me as I stumbled up the stairs, into the cabin, and collapsed in a sweaty, stinking heap into my seat at one minute before departure (not a good look) – huzzah!

In an interesting turn of events on the flight, I was having a nice chat with a very pleasant Turkish woman heading to Gundogan from Frankfurt and the fellow sitting on my other side heard me say I was from Canada. He asked “Which city?”, I responded “Vancouver”, he asked, “Where in Vancouver?”, I replied “Downtown – what about you?”, he replied “Yaletown”, I said “No kidding – where?, he answered “The Elan – 28th  floor”. I was stunned – we were actual neighbours! The Elan is the building right across the street from our place – we could have seen one another through our windows! How small is the world! Originally from Iran, resident in Vancouver for 14 years, Dema is now a financial planner in Dubai but still considers himself Canadian. It was a lovely end to a long, long day to meet these nice folks.

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Eljay retrieved me from the airport and drove me to our digs for the coming weeks, the Old Stone House, in tiny village of Gokcebel, a lovely drive of about 45 minutes along the beautiful coast of the Bodrum peninsula. After a nice glass of cold white wine, and some homemade soup, I was ready to hit the sack. Over and out for now!

Centro Art Walkin’

Every Wednesday night in Centro an Art Walk happens from 6 until 10 in the evening. Good ol’ Ty humours me by indulging my mania for both art and walking; rather than going home from the beach after an afternoon’s strenuous lounging we headed straight downtown for the walk, with only the briefest of pauses to flag down the donut man  and scarf down two huge donuts for sustenance.

The dozen or so art walk galleries are found just north of the main church and east of the  Malecon. Helping to encourage folks to come out are the small glasses of vino served by each, the better to attract eager, and thirsty, art patrons. We began our art journey at the Peyote People gallery of folk art, mostly from Oaxaca and Chiapas, where the attendant showed us some Catrina skeletons, full torso female figures in fancy clothing designed to mock the pretensions of the rich, who, like everyone else, irrespective of their wealth, end up as bones. We also saw some incredibly intricate beaded skulls with tiny insects atop them – really fabulous.

From there we pounded the pavement to the galleries further north, stopping at a cluster of three selling beautifully decorated ceramics and the Loft Gallery, a three storey emporium of mostly realist painting. It had a wonderful view out over the rooftops of PV and the setting sun. Around the corner was Galeria Uno, packed with art lovers consuming tiny margaritas. Ty lurked in the shadows, practising his best travelling incognito mode.

A few blocks farther north are five of what I consider to be the most interesting spaces, Gallery Corsica, Gallery Omar Alonzo, Gallery Pacifica, Galeria des Artistes, and La Pulga, all of which have wonderful architecture and good art, especially the sculpture.

I particularly enjoyed the mixed media portraits at Omar Alonzo by Rogelio Mango, which incorporate silk and oil paint.

After a few hours of dedicated art viewing, hunger overcame us, necessitating a hasty hike to Old Town and grilled shrimp at a packed Joe Jack’s Fish Shack.

See more Art Walk photos here.

I really love walking around the old town area and Isla Cuale is one of my favorite spots. Oscar’s restaurant near the beach has a second floor gallery that right now is showing portraits of Indigenous people by local artist Marta Gilbert. At the studios on the other end of the island, I ran into (not literally) one of the artist patrons of Barclay Manor in the West End, Tavia, who looked very startled to see me. I think it was the hat that did it. She, and lots of others, both locals and visitors, was painting up a storm under guidance of maestro Hector.

Yesterday we decided to spend our beach day at Conchas Chinas Beach, the next bay south of Los Muertos where we usually go. It is accessed by a path that runs along the high tide line at the beach’s edge, over a rocky point and along the waterfront homes south of here.

We did not make it all the way but chose to set up our stuff in the shade of a rocky outcrop between two small rocky bays.

The current is very strong here and the waves high; we had to relocate from our first spot because the waves inundated it.

Just after we had been  talking about what we would do if someone got into trouble in the water, it happened. An older man had decided to go out swimming in this very dangerous place and couldn’t get back in; the current was dragging him out to sea. It became quickly apparent that he needed help and his wife was rushing back and forth on the beach, trying to call for help on her cell phone. Two young tourist guys just happened to be there, saw what was happening, and saved him by running up to a nearby hotel, grabbing a life preserver, swimming out to him, putting it on him, and towing him back in to the thunderous applause of everyone watching from the shore. Lucky man.

See more photos here.

El Tuito and the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens

There are several small colonial towns in the Sierra Madre Hills around PV. Most require an overnight stay but one,  El  Tuito, is close enough for a day trip. We decided to combine Tuito with a visit to the Vallarta Botanical Gardens since both are in the same direction. While local tour companies ask upwards of $85 dollars for a tour of these two places, it is very easy to go by local bus for 27 pesos instead.

We  caught the Tuito bus in Old Town at the corner of Carranza and Aquacate at 10 am and were whisked south along the highway past Mismaloya. At Boca de Tomatlan we turned inland and headed up into the mountains. Sitting on the right hand side of the bus, I had a tremendous view of the cliff face and jungle,  all the better to see any boulders rolling downhill to crush us. Every 100 feet or so just such a  boulder sat by the side of the road…  The road, a one lane highway, twists and turns as it switchbacks up the mountain.  As usual, I was a bit of a nervous Nellie with a death grip on the back of the seat in front of me as the driver sped around the hairpin turns.

As luck would have it,  after zooming through several small hamlets and going ever higher into a beautiful feathery pine forest, we arrived alive after an hour and a half at the sleepy burg of El Tuito, the capital of Cabo Corriente province. At 1100 meters, this town is cooler than the coast and has a completely different feel. The town’s name means “little beautiful bay” in Nahuatl, the local indigenous language. El Tuito is not at all dependent on tourism; in fact,  almost no visitors make it out here, except the few who come by bus and, this day, one jeep-load of guided tour people.

All the action takes place on and around the main square, a trapezoid paved two block area surrounded by government buildings, a Cultural Centre, and a couple of restaurants.

Huge fig trees dominate the Plaza, under which the local community sat enjoying the shade. We spent some time investigating the Cultural Centre, a beautiful orange clay building with a lovely interior courtyard and a dramatic mural decorating its main staircase.

This painting, by local artist David Edmundo Castillon Sanchez, is entitled Universal Revolution and illustrates the history of Cabo Corrientes.

In it are a vast cast of characters, including the Magellan brothers, Admiral Armando Castillon, aboriginal leaders, and figures from the Mexican revolution. The painting occupies three full walls and in the bottom left hand corner the artist has depicted himself holding a banner with his name and the date, not unlike artists of old like Durer used to do. One of the Centre’s employees, Efren, was kind enough to give me a document outlining the painting’s program. From it, I learned that, because one of the conquistadors’ ships had been sunk on arrival in 1517 by rough seas, they named this area Cabo Corriente, Cape Current. Apparently the beaches along this stretch of coast are not swimmable because of the currents.

After stopping at Los Mariachis for a Nescafe and chat with a couple of other visitors from PV, we rolled around the corner to the Church of San Pedro Apostoli, beautifully painted and decorated inside with flowers.

The scent was fantastic. After asking the fellow cleaning whether the flowers were for a special occasion, he told me in Spanish at length about the community’s grand Fiesta of the Virgin Mary on January 12th each year.

He explained that people come from all the outlying areas to join in celebration. Also of note in this church is the boulder altar, an enormous hunk of granite not unlike those that could potentially kill bus passengers as they scream down cliff faces… José explained that the Saint’s name, Pedro, is like Piedra, which means stone, hence the stone altar.

My Spanish was not up to the task of understanding how the boulder had been transported and installed in the church. Just outside the church we noticed the yellow jeep of a tour group whose clients, like us, were wandering around the back streets. A territorial doggie on a rooftop barked officiously down at us as we strolled by –  such are the joys of small town life. Back at the Town Square again we were lucky enough to hop on the bus out just as it was about to leave.

After a harrowing ride down the hill we were deposited at the entrance to the Botanical Gardens, a paradise of coolness and greenery.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking through the trails and lounging in the garden’s hacienda where they have kindly supplied couches and pillows for that very purpose.

Part of the twenty acres is devoted to forest trails that reminded us of Lynn Canyon Park, including a river trail that descends to the swimmable Emerald Pool, and a black diamond hike called the Jaguar trail.

Next to the hacienda is a pond with aquatic plants and a solarium with varieties of orchids. Inside the building is a restaurant with a nice deck and tasty food and on the main floor an exhibition of infrared photos, some of which were very good. I really enjoyed having a little siesta on a lounge chair and watching the hummingbirds come and go. I could have stayed there for a very long time.

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Isla Cuale Stroll and Random Observations

Today we decided to spend our time photographing Isla Cuale and the area around it,  an oasis of green that divides Old Town from Centro. After walking over on a pretty warm day we stopped to refuel at Las Brazzas,  a small bistro on the eastern end of the island near the art studios. It’s the only restaurant left at that end of the  island; all  the others that were open last year are now cat colonies.

Joining us on the patio were Heather, an expat from Ontario, and Irma, a native PVer. Heather has been here for seven years, living in and around the Old Town and working as a care aid. She likes it, but is sick of all the tourists in the winter and says the place is like a tomb in the summer, empty and screaming hot. Just as in every tourist town we’ve been to, the locals have a love – hate relationship with tourism and who can blame them? It was interesting talking with Heather about her experiences here and hearing her insights into the various communities that make up this town.

This day the printmaking studio was open and we had a chat with Dan from North Carolina who was working on a black and white woodcut, his first. He wanted to know why Canadians were less apt to be taken in by news stories about how dangerous Mexico is than Americans. We postulated that more people watch CBC than Fox News…

From the print studio we wandered over to our usual taco stand and then to Le Cuiza, a restaurant, bar, and gallery near the beach end of the island.

Very colorful paintings adorn the walls here and all the wooden furniture is vibrantly painted. The artists here offer workshops and classes and the bar does a good business with Canadians on karaoke nights.

Outside in the gigantic banyan tree iguanas race overhead on the tree’s huge limbs. It is interesting that we have seen hardly any insects here – no mosquitoes, no bees, just a few wasps and a few tiny butterflies. I wonder if they spray the bejeezus out of the place. I don’t miss the mosquitoes but it is curious that most insects seem to have disappeared from the landscape here.

Our final stop on the photo tour was Fireworks ceramic studio on the second floor of Los Mercados, a tiny shopping arcade in a beautiful building  in Old Town.

Arranged around a central courtyard and painted a warm yellow-orange,  the place reminded me of Italy.

Fireworks occupies an airy area with lots of different kinds of vessels and tiles waiting to be painted, as well as books of illustration, patterns, and designs for inspiration. It is a U paint it studio, where one pays for the greenware, paints it, and has it fired by studio personnel. I may give it a whirl.

On the main floor of the arcade was –  glory be – a good looking wine store and a deli with several different cuts of meat, including our favourite hot Italian sausage – joy! Naturally we had to patronize both; I have been missing a nice glass of wine in the evenings. Both places are a bit pricey,  charging close to Canadian prices for their food and catering to the expat community. And they are air-conditioned; I think that was the first air-conditioned environment that I’ve been in  here. Be that as it may, we rolled home with a small bag of goodies that we are surely going to enjoy.  It is good to know that if we crave food and drink that we are used to from home,  we can get it here.

In other “news”:

Some local young artists have started a gallery right down at the beach, selling and showing very colourful paintings and painted furniture.

Here is another of the plethora of VW bugs in this town.

We sampled some mole sauce with chocolate from our favorite taco stand.

Here is another great anabolic steroid ad –  get your roid rage here cheap, cheap, almost free.

Another thing that is “almost free” here is parasailing (oh autocorrect how I hate you. Not parasites, parasailing). One woman high over the beach, ignoring the frantic whistles of the sail master trying to get her to turn the sail towards the beach, just about came down far out in the deep water.

I spoke to two lifeguards on the beach up north near Ley Supermarket who told me that they make at least five rescues a week every week of the year, mostly of people who don’t know how to swim and go in the water after drinking. At this beach there are strong currents not far offshore and the water gets deep very quickly, none of which is evident from the shore unless you know what to look for. Most locals can’t swim, and people drown here every year.

Every day on the waters of PV is a pelican party.

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