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Banderas Bay Part 1

We had a wonderful two weeks in Banderas Bay, keeping the boat in Paradise Village Marina in Neuvo Vallarta for most of that time.   Paradise Village is a first class resort a few miles north of Puerto Vallarta and the associated marina there, run by a gentlemen named Dick Markie, is completely top notch with great facilities, water, power and even cable TV!  But best of all, as marina guests, we could make use of the hotel beach, bar, pools, water slides, hot tubs and other amenities up to and including room service delivered to the boat!

Lots of other cruising boats were here at the same time - all three marinas in the area and most of the anchorages in Banderas Bay were full - and we ran into several old friends and made many new ones.  The kids in particular hooked up with other kids on the boats in the marina and were never at a loss for entertainment (video)

But as much as we loved relaxing by the pool in Paradise Village, we made an effort to get out of the tourist area as often as possible and made many wonderful day trips to downtown Puerto Vallarta and the other small towns surrounding Banderas Bay including La Cruz de Huanxcaxtle.  Philo's Bar in La Cruz in particular is a cruiser hangout and we found ourselves there several times, both by taxi and by boat after a day trip on Sula out to snorkel at the Tres Marieta Islands.

Eric's mom came to visit us for a week while we were in the marina and the kids in particular had a great time spending time with her at the pool and celebrating her 70th birthday at an absolutely wonderful restaurant south of PV known as "Le Kliff", which had great food and atmosphere (complete with roaming band serenading the diners (video) ) has been used in several movies including a James Bond film (we don't know which) and reportedly sports the world's largest palapa roof.  The place is built right on a cliff overlooking Banderas Bay and although it was raining and cloudy the day we were there believe it or not, the sunset view from this place must be extraordinary!  They even have a beautiful wedding platform built over a rock pinnacle outcropping in front of the restaurant.  If you are thinking of getting married in Mexico, this is the spot to do it!

Perhaps the most educational day trip we took was an all-day (7:30am to 10:00pm) bus tour up to an Huichol Indian Village in the  mountains to the east of Tepic.  The 5 hour bus ride takes you up to the Aquamilpa Damn and reservoir (the largest in Western Mexico and the source of much of this area's power and water).  You then take an hour long panga ride across the man made lake to the most accessible village where you spend a couple of hours before returning.   This is not a Disneyland tour.  Its a very long day and even with the nice air conditioned bus, it's not the normal tourist fair.   Only one company runs this tour.  They do it only on Thursdays and only for a dozen or two people at at time.  Nothing here is a prop or for show.  You just walk through the village and the tour guide, who started this tour along with his good Huichol Indian friend Sancho 8 years ago, points out houses and other sites and explains what you are seeing.  Occasionally, he will ask a resident if he can show the inside of someone's home or something like that and the whole group will crane through a doorway to catch a glimpse of how they cook or sleep.  Imagine a bus load of aliens from Mars getting bused in and shown around your neighborhood to see how people lived before hyperdrive and you have the right idea.

The Huichol Indians are famous for their yarn and bead artwork (you may even have made yarn "god's eyes" or "HiHos" in art class as a kid) and if you have been to Mexico recently, you may have seen Huichol art for sale in the airport or even seen a Huichol Indian artisan in traditional garb working in a gallery.   But if you buy a piece of art there, little to nothing of what you pay makes it back to the artisan's home village.  In fact, we were told that many of the artisans working for tourist gallery outlets are taken advantage of or even abused and basically live an indentured life.  This was the reason given by our tour guide for starting this tour where tourists can buy art direct from the village with no middle man involved.  Indeed, the day we were there, there were perhaps 40 or more Indian merchants (almost exclusively women and girls as the men were supposedly back at their village farming or fishing) who had traveled to this particular village from the surrounding areas to take advantage of the opportunity to sell their art direct.  But to be clear, these people don't consider themselves poor or impoverished and neither should we.  We were warned not to give money or other gifts to children, that they would consider that rude or insulting.   There are over 400,000 Huichol Indians living in this part of Mexico and we were told many of them have made a conscious decision to live a simpler, more traditional lifestyle, but one blended with a modern education and awareness of the world.  The school in the village we visited for example, seemed quite adequate, sported a modern western curriculum and was funded by the Mexican government and staffed with teachers paid for by the state.  Nor are these folks lacking for essentials.   A small co-op store in the village we visited appeared well stocked with modern necessities including medicines, with all proceeds going back into the co-op.  It may have been partly for show, but if so, it was a good show and you came away feeling that these people were on the right road to balancing traditional lifestyle and culture with the influence of the modern world.   The kids in particular enjoyed the visit and learned a great deal about other cultures and lifestyles on this "field trip".

As always, click on the images to see a larger view.


Bronze statues on the Malacon in downtown Peurto Vallarta.

The kids imitating art.

Our Lady of Guadalope cathedral in downtown Puerto Vallarta whose dome is patterned after Queen Carlotta's crown.

Nana comes for a visit. Outside Le Kliff resturant, south of PV. Le Kliff has the largest palapa roof in the world.

Le Kliff restruant, taken from the wedding platfrom. As you can see, the place lives up to it's name!

Look at the size of those drinks!

Kids challenge Nana to a drinking contest!

Nana gets the funny hat as we were celebrating her 70th birthday party.

Happy Birthday to You.... cha cha cha

Happy Birthday Nana!

Local racoon (at least we think it was a racoon) comes to wish Nana a happy birthday at Le Kliff.

Nana and Kelsey looking up at the resturant from the wedding platform.

Looking down from our table at the wedding platform over the Pacific Ocean at Le Kliff.

Reservoir near Aquamilpa, which we crossed by panga to visit the Huichol Indian village of San Andrej.

Crossing the reservoir lake by panga.

Check out the damn in the background. The largest in Western Mexico and where Peurto Vallarta and the srounding area get their power and water.

Landing dock at the Huichol Indian Village.

Walking into the village.

Huichol homes. There are many other villlages in the sourounding hills.

Traditional Huichol home on stilts to keep the place dry in the rainy season. Note the plastic on the stilts to keep the scorpions from climbing.

Kelsey checking out a village pig, which is a cross betwen a domesticated pig and local wild boars.

The kids playing which a brood of chicks.

Huichol Indian school. Children from surrounding villages come here for the week to attend school in facilities provided by the Mexican Gov.

Huichol Indian kids. These folks are not poor or impoverished. We were told they have elected to live a more traditional lifestyle by choice.

The Huichol Indian market where members from the surrounding villages come on Thursdays to sell their bead art to the tourists.

"Sancho" wearing traditional Huichol garb. He was instrumental in starting the Inidian village tours from PV 8 years ago.


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