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2010 Puerto Vallarta Trip 2

 My tan is already fading. Despite the unseasonably warm April we're having – which means t-shirts and even tank tops being worn to worship our slightly-watery Minnesota sun – my lovely Puerto Vallarta bronzed glaze is, alas, slip-sliding away.

In my opinion, 7 days in PV is never long enough...but it WAS a fun week! Penny, John, Clint and I basked in the sun, swam in the ocean, ate great food, drank our fair share of margaritas and laughed an awful lot. In spite of also getting sick – yup, all four of us – I'd say this definitely makes my elite list of favorite trips down there.

The First Day
Clint & I arrived at the PV airport almost 20 minutes ahead of schedule. Coupled with our first-class tickets (upgraded at the airport, so much cheaper than it sounds) and being on the first flight of the day in PVR, we zipped right through (even surprised all the vendors) and in less than 5 minutes were in a cab, on our way to the condo. Since Penny & John wouldn't be arriving for another 3 hours at least, we headed right to the beach and proceeded to tie one on.

This led to me entirely missing the time frame for meeting those two out in front of the condo, but they made it just the same and promptly joined us in our revelry. The rest of the day was given over to margaritas, Piña coladas, sun and salt water. Of course, some of us were more aware of the strong tropical sun than others and didn't burn...but there's always one wise guy (ahem, CLINT). Said wise guy was approximately fluorescent pink for the next 3 days.

Even though we'd all been there before, all were in agreement we wanted to head to Yelapa at least once during the week, if not twice. We planned the first trip on Monday (2 days after arriving) and by Thursday we were back.

For those of you who've never been to Yelapa, it's best described as...well, Shangri-La. While definitely a third-world town, the utter peace, laid-back atmosphere and sheer beauty of Yelapa give it the air of an expensive, exclusive resort.

When you first round the corner of the small bay in which it's nestled – while you can get to Yelapa by road, the main way to travel there is still water taxi – you're struck by the simplicity of it. The pier to the south gives direct access to the town itself: houses and stores built right into the hillside jungle. The north-side pier sits at the end of the row of palapas denoting the hotel's rooms. In between the two piers lies the pristine crescent-shaped, white-sanded beach with a few restaurants lazily vying for vacationing patrons.

Of course the first trip we took the "tour" up through the town to visit the waterfall (woefully small this time of year, but still bigger than normal; they received a lot of rain this winter). While we didn't have a human guide this year, we did manage to pick up a smaller local willing to escort us to and from. (In fact, he was so enamored with us we had to drop him off at the end of our jaunt, since he showed no signs of abandoning us.)

Speaking of dogs, Penny & I definitely got our "fix" that day, since in addition to our Yo Quiero Tour Guide, we were also adopted by two friendly beach-bum dogs who decided we were not only worth hanging out with, but protecting. Yes. A pregnant – we think – female and a male puppy decided to bark incessantly at anyone who came too close to our little beach camp. Quite cute.

Our second trip was strictly for relaxation – the boat dropped us off at 10:30, and we didn't move from our claimed plot of beach until the 4pm taxi back to PV.

No walking to the waterfall, no parasailing, no pictures taken with Peter the Iguana. Of course, his owner did head into the bar for a refreshment and left him lying in the sand quite near us so we had to steal a few portraits.

It was lovely day: virtually no vendors, hardly any gringos, flowing margaritas, high-end guacamole and a picture-perfect ocean for cooling off. And of course, each others' company :)

Much to the chagrin of our parents, we decided to go zip-lining – commonly referred to down there as a "canopy tour" – over the set of the movie "Predator" in Mismaloya. In order to obtain said tickets, we agreed to sit in on a "75-minute presentation of a new hotel." I.e., a timeshare pitch. But, with a free breakfast and FREE zipping tickets, who cared? Ah, but that's a whole 'nother story...PLUS, the entire cab ride to the place, John, Penny & I played "slug bug" ("Das Auto" style, i.e., "red one!" SMACK), much to the chagrin of Clint (in the front seat) and I'm sure, the cab driver. Note to self: Do NOT engage in a game of slug bug in Mexico unless you're fully prepared to be bruised and battered.

I digress. Since John and I are both afraid of heights (my fear is really of falling; heights obviously heighten that phobia...yes, pun intended) we were each wondering how exactly that would pan out. On our bus ride into the jungle, I learned the two kids –  aged 10 and 13 – seated in front of us were not only a) going zip-lining and b) not afraid of it, but c) they'd both gone two years previously. That sealed it: if an EIGHT-YEAR-OLD could zip-line and return later for a sequel, then by God, I was going and that was that.

So zip we did. Our "tour" was a total of 12 zip-lines. The first three were 'easy,' to break us in and let us practice braking, etc. Then the fourth was the longest – at a ¼ mile long and I-don't-know-how-many-scary-feet over the Mismaloya river, it was quite a shock. I might've screamed something along the lines of "HOLY SH*T!" as I careened overhead at 50 miles per hour. Hey, at least I didn't pee.

We all did really well. It was super-fun, exciting, and the crew we had was entertaining and had a great sense of humor. It was fun watching Penny nearly jump out of her skin each time the "Predator" launched out of the jungle at her! Equally – if not more – funny was watching Clint get fitted for his large helmet (the rest of us had "normal" ones; when Clint got his turn to get fitted the gal exclaimed in Spanish, "whoa, we need a big one for you!"). That of course got us joking about our equipment (and war paint, for which John and I opted) and of course I had to do the whole, "does this harness make my butt look big???" joke. Good times.

A fun experience, and definitely worth the "Mexican Massage" bus ride it took to get there. Plus we stopped at a tequila factory – Tequila Don Crispin – on the way back, so that eased the aches and pains of the day.

Every morning when I'm in Puerto Vallarta, I rise before the sun (technically it's 'Pacific time,' being on the west coast, though the actual time doesn't differ from Central) and eagerly await the dawn so I can journey out for my morning beach-walk along the Malecón. Historically (i.e., beginning on my first trip, when I was 11) I'd RUN that route...but let's be honest. I haven't run for years so now I power-walk.

In the last few years, I've discovered/decided I want to add the PV Stairs to my regimen. What's the big deal? After walking north until the end/start of the Malecón (the "boardwalk") and walking back to the condo, I continue south of the pier, walk through the sand and end up (after approximately 40 minutes) at The Stairs.

The Stairs are a common workout site in Old Town PV, with Mexicans and US-ians alike gathering to trek the bajillion steps up to the street and then tredge all the way back down to the beach to rinse-and-repeat. I've never counted the steps, but since it takes me at least a couple minutes to reach the top, going two-at-a-time, I'm thinking there are a LOT of steps. Definitely a good workout when coupled with almost an hour of walking – especially at Olympian pace, and through sand, too  – when one plans to spend the rest of the day copping a squat on the beach with a constant drink in attendance. Oh, and lots of guacamole, too.


We didn't "go sightseeing," per se, but we did see a lot of sights. (And sites, technically.) From the death-defying heights of zip-lining and the gorgeous colors of the sarongs to the loading of appliances into a wave-washed boat and colorful seaside sunsets, we experienced a lot of visual stimulation.

No matter how many times I've been to Puerto Vallarta, each setting of the sun is unique. I've always been a sunset-lover, and having grown up on a lake I'm "used" to seeing the sun set across the water. But here, with the ocean so vast and the slightest change in cloud cover painting a different picture, I find myself craning to see every last vestige of every sunset I can. Our last night didn't disappoint :)

The Last Night
It's always hard leaving Puerto Vallarta. No matter how many times I've been there, or how long I've been there (last year we were there for a total of 2 weeks for our weddingmoon), I always feel a pang of sadness for having to leave it all behind. Our last night there, Clint & I went to Marazul for dinner and were graced with not only a great meal but a gorgeous sunset. A great ending to a great vacation.