Almost every Tuesday (and one Wednesday) we have gone hiking from Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas, a trail through forest, up and down hills, and along the water of the gigantic Banderas Bay that takes between one and a half and two hours, depending upon the heat and the state of our legs. We meet the group at the corner of Constitution and Basilio Badillo for the 40 minute bus trip down the coast to Boca, from which the trail begins. Since we were last here, Boca has really been spruced up, especially the area near the beach and trail head, including, oh joy, new washrooms.
The group size varies according to the time of year; the largest number of people was in mid-March, when 55 of us jammed the bus, and a few days ago we were down to 12. As per usual here, the bus ride is an experience, not always a good one! All depends upon the state of the vehicle’s shocks and the driver’s mind.
Once through the town of Boca, the first part of the trail runs along the bay, beneath the haciendas that have been built cliff-side. When we hiked during Semana Santa, the Holy Week before Easter when the entire world comes to Vallarta, palapa tent structures had been erected on the beach at the river mouth for Nationals and their families to camp for the week. Some of these even had electrical cords running to them to power TVs and other small devices.
The first part of the walk is relatively flat and easy but soon the trail runs up the hill and we get into sandy switchbacks that have to be negotiated carefully.
Once over the first hill and down again, the worst of the uphill is done as we come down into Colomitos Beach, usually pretty quiet except for Semana Santa, when boatloads of tourists from Mexico City hit the beaches.
Colomitos is a tiny beach and, once crossed, the trail rises on cut stone stairs again and along the ocean cliffside. This year the trail has new handrails on some sections, though, a great addition.
Down and up, the trail follows the coastline as it heads towards the southern part of the bay, passing small strips of sand and larger sandy bays, into some of which boats bring daytrippers for a visit.
Las Trovas is one of the more swanky destination resorts along this strip of coast, running some $500 dollars a night for its beachside “bungalows”.
One particular large rock along the way – the Lizard rock – always has one or two largish iguanas sunning themselves. I assume it’s the same ones but who knows?
The longgggggg beach strip below is the toughest part of this section of the trail. Once we reach it hot and sweaty, I know how far we still have to go. And it’s still a ways from here.
A welcome sign, this one pointing the way lets us know that we are getting there. Here we turn back into the shade of the trees as the trail runs through a bungalow development that reminds us of some of the Thai islands that we’ve visited.
At last, the oasis of Las Animas appears and we’re almost there, our final destination the Caracol Restaurant next to the Pier.
Rob enjoys a well-deserved margarita.
Big water toys are new this year.
The reward for our exertions: a cold, damp facecloth, salsa and chips, beer, and a delicious shrimp lunch,
along with the foul Raicilla shot that everyone loves to hate.
Gunther tracked Ty down to hs beach chair in the sand to deliver his share of the gasoline fuel, traditionally knocked back with an orange slice.
Doug, a former firefighter from Calgary, has been leading these hikes for several years, along with his dog Chester.
Apres-hike and apres-beach, the group rolls up to Langostino’s on the beach for Happy Hour margaritas (and I unfortunately forgot to ask for them “sin popote” – without straws – will remember next time!).
The pierside restaurant/bar Cuates and Cuetes, a live music destination, had an epic 6 hours long music festival on the beach for the end of the season, featuring jazz, Latin and drum music, action painting, and Aztec and fire dancers on the beach paying homage to the sinking sun. You can see their large feather headdresses in the middle of the photo below.
Brothers of the beard (below); this fellow, also Canadian, wanted his picture taken with Ty, figuring that they were two peas in a bearded pod.
After enjoying the merriment for a while, we found a nice bar in Old Town to play pool, then sampled some street-side tacos nearby. A person could live very cheaply down here if she could survive on tacos alone: here they are 14 pesos each (about $1).
Frida Kahlo’s effigy and image is everywhere here, even in the pool hall.
I have joined the PV Art Guild and am using their shared studio space on via Carranza to do some painting for a month or so. Located in a wonderful old hacienda, formerly a restaurant, the Guild has rented space in one of the large upstairs areas. As a shared space member, I can use this place pretty much any time to create whatever I fancy and store my stuff when I’m not there.
Edwige, below, is one of the founders and driving forces of the Guild and she, along with a few others, has a small private studio and gallery space on the second floor.
Saturday markets continue here year-round, as do various workshops run by Guild members. In one of the photos below, Barb leads some enthusiasts in painting bedazzled cacti.
Among the other artists are Marg and Cassandra, who share a larger studio space on the second floor. Cassandra is also a jewelry designer and has a very well-regarded store in Old Town where many extravagant pieces can be found, as well as some of her paintings.
This day the shared space was all mine, as I worked on an acrylic version of a plein air watercolour I’d done earlier downtown.
Here it is below at a slightly later stage in its evolution.
Shirley, a Canadian from Vancouver Island, also has studio space here and is there some days with me, working on playful and colourful animals and local characters. Many of this group of women, year round residents of PV, met for years at the studio of a longtime Vallarta resident who just recently sold her home in Gringo Gulch.
Our plein air group has shrunk now that many have returned to the north; last time out it was just three of us working streetside on Hidalgo, me, Donna and Paulette, while Rod takes photos.
Donna is a well-known watercolour painter here who shows her work at Galleria Dante; this day she executed a small pen and ink and watercolour sketch of a cafe patio.
Below is a view of the painting subject.
Ty and I hit the last Southside Shuffle of the season and had a good time playing chess with a beautiful bronze set of figures created by a local artist Alvaro Zardoni.
The game started out very promisingly – a well-fought match but ultimately I had to concede … Ty did only minimal gloating.
Outside on the sidewalk one of the local drag entertainers was strutting her stuff for an enthusiastic audience in front of Cassandra Shaw’s place, drumming up interest in an upcoming show at Act II.
As mentioned, Semana Santa is the busiest time of the year here, when all of Mexico brings their families to the beach for a week or two. Among the visitors was this crowd of bikers on choppers and hogs from Guadalajara staying in a hotel just down the road a piece.
Semana Santa in Puerto Vallarta is not at spectacular as it was in Guanajuato when we were there a few years back. While there almost every business and private home had an elaborate altar set up to honour the Virgin of Guadalupe and a long parade on Palm Sunday, we wouldn’t find any altars here. The only evidence we saw of traditional Easter was a display and sale of palm frond Virgins and Crucifixes in front of the Cathedral.
Although there wasn’t much in the way of Easter traditions, the beaches have been packed for two weeks with frolicking families enjoying their Spring break. Extra lifeguards and police patrols have been put on – many of the Mexicans do not know how to swim.
A very pleasant discovery was the VIP Cinema here at La Isla shopping centre north of us. When you just don’t want to be out in the sun anymore for a bit, a visit to this theatre is a great treat. Only a year old, the place is spotless and each theatre has leather recliners, push buttons to call waiters, and an extensive food and drink menu.
We enjoyed our film in air-conditioned comfort! La Isla itself is very upscale and a world of difference from the Old Mexico ambience of downtown Vallarta.
For me, a large part of the enjoyment of being here is the art opportunities, both to see it and to make it. I took two different afternoon acrylic painting classes at Art Vallarta last week and enjoyed both. The painting area has expanded since I was last here; what was formerly a gym on the bottom floor is now the “cold room”, a lightly air-conditioned space for painting classes and artists in residence. At the moment it also hosts a display of local artist Tony Collantez’ works on canvas.
Doug Simonson’s Harnessing the Power of Painting class was really good. He has been teaching people the magic of acrylic for 35 years and his experience shows. We began with a slide show demonstrating how to break down images into shapes, values, and vector lines to make simplification of the motif easier. Then we were given a selection of images and asked to draw them quickly, eliminating the detail and focusing on the lights and darks instead. Below is my plant drawing.
I found this process to be quite frustrating, in that using a pencil was not as conducive as charcoal or pastel might have been but I gave it my best shot.
Doug has lots of followers who attend all his classes and come back year after year. This Good Friday afternoon’s class was full, with 10 or so people. The final exercise involved a similar process, except using acrylic paint rather than pencil. I found this easier, although I was not particularly enamored of what I worked on (the swimmer below).
I did learn some things and I enjoyed the class – Doug is a very good teacher. He’s not afraid to critique students and most seemed to take the instruction well.
Lalo, below, one of Art Vallarta’s team, was doing his own thing in the corner, working on a large black and white portrait head.
The following Saturday afternoon was Freestyle Acrylic Painting with Adrian Rojas, a local muralist and crowd favourite. A very nice person with a gentle style, Adrian, too, teaches to a full house three times a week, twice in another studio at Art Vallarta and once on the beach. In the photo below, that’s one of his murals on the wall.
For this class, offered twice a week, participants bring in what they’ve been working on and he gives guidance and tips. This day most of the canvases were large and varied in terms of imagery: portraits, landscapes, flowers, and abstract compositions. Some of these folks are experienced, others have never held a brush in their hands before – Adrian takes all comers.
Although I would have liked to have used a much larger canvas, I was happier with what I produced this time, the fire angel below.
Easter weekend saw us down along the malecon for sunset, enjoying the throngs of people out and about in holiday mode.
Vast crowds of Mexicans, with multitudes of kids and grandparents in tow, enjoyed the vendor offerings and music all along the boardwalk.
Ken and Lynda were kind enough to invite us to Easter Sunday lunch at Moro Paraiso in Paso Ancho, a riverside restaurant way up the hill from PV in eijido land (collective land deeded to the poor in years gone by).
It was warm and quiet while we were there, later to be descended upon by hordes of ATVers (this restaurant is a stop on the ATV tours up the hills).
The food was very tasty, as you can tell!
After lunch we rolled further up the hill to a ranch with several gigantic palapas and a fleet of ATVs, as well as an enormously long and high suspension bridge from hilltop to hilltop. From the restaurant’s deck we could see a strip of the ocean in the far distance.
In the photo below, you can just see the thin silver line of the suspension bridge against the green of the hill in the background – none of us tried it this day, though.
Lynda and Ken, who have lived here ten years, showed us their two places, one a four level rental house on the hill in Colonia 5th of Diciembre,
and the other a two house combination in Agua Azul, just across the highway and about a 15 minute walk from our place. Ken designed both these places and had them built by local constractors. Inside the Agua Azul place is a large open courtyard area with a pool – gorgeous!
Ty and I strolled through the cemetery one day, enjoying the quiet and all the flowers and other decorations put out for Easter. On the wall surrouding are several murals, some of which could use a touch-up.
In 5th of Diciembre many of the walls are adorned with murals, including these below (the photo below of Einstein is not by me, but unfortunately I neglected to record the name of the person who took it).
Finally, for this post, we checked out the Centro Art Walk the other night with a much diminished crowd – all the snow birds have flown away home. At Galeria Corsica was this Mexican riff on Leonardo’s Woman with an Ermine.
The fabulously-decorated Nord-South Gallery had live music, with a pianist, violinist, and singer, as well as an array of chocolates and vino, and we spent a bit of time there admiring the art and design pieces.
Here are a few more samples of the artistic wares on offer:
Also, I’m super happy that my short film Awash has been selected for Voices from the Waters – 2018, the 12th International Travelling Film Festival on Water, in Bangalore, India. Over the last eleven years the Bangalore Film Society, in collaboration with a consortium of organizations, has brought together film directors, grass-root level water activists, environmentalists, scientists, policy makers, scholars and artists, from all walks of life to engage in a process of learning and debate on various water issues from around the world.
See more photos here.