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Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo

Our time in Ixtapa was been a pleasant break from our normal cruising routine as nothing major on the boat needed fixing (other than the freezer, which needed moisture removed from the system necessitating a visit by a local technician with a vacuum pump) and we have spent a lot of time eating out, laying by the poolside, and walking to the ice cream shop.  The kids in particular have enjoyed the reduced school schedule, particularly during the times their grandparents and friends from Minnesota visited.

We spent the majority of our time here in the Ixtapa Marina, which has many advantages over the main anchorage at Zihuatanejo just a few miles away where most of the cruising boats in the area are currently anchored.  Besides all the regular advantages of being in a marina including quiet nights without swell or surge, power and garbage service and fresh water to wash the salt off the boat, another advantage here is that the marina was built in a fresh water estuary, which means that the water the boat is sitting in has very low salinity, killing the saltwater barnacles and other marine growth we have acquired over the past months while greatly reducing any new growth.  This is quite fortuitous as no one will dive to clean bottoms or work on boats here in the marina because of the crocodiles (video)! When the marina was built, the largest animal relocation in Mexican history took place as they relocated over 2000 of these 'American Crocodiles'.  But it seems they missed a few and even though the marina staff and other wildlife agents periodically catch and relocate these guys, there are still enough here to make diving or swimming interesting.  We've seen at least 3 different animals swimming alongside the docks among the boats since we have been here (we've actually heard them scrape along the hull at night!).  Two we saw were only around four or five feet long, but another was over 8 feet long, weighing perhaps 400 pounds!  It had a 10' length of 300lb fishing leader trailing out its mouth, having obviously swallowed a fishing lure or something recently.  Such a lure was unlikely to cause such a large animal permanent harm we surmised, but Eric was able to cut the line off with a pair of scissors only a few inches away from his mouth, hopefully making life a little better for him.  Long term marina residents feed them and claim larger 12-14 foot animals weighing up to a ton abound.  Once every few months a pet poodle will disappear off a beach or dock, but for the most part the animals we saw looked to be well fed and lazy (well, why not with an entire estuary full of fish to feed only the few remaining crocs?) but perhaps they always look that way.  Anyway, the signs posted around the marina (in English and Spanish, complete with graphics!) warn people to stay away from the water and although they don't appear about to bother anyone, in or out of the water, we decided not to push our luck!

One downside to being here in Ixtapa rather than in Zihuantanejo (besides paying to be in the marina of course as opposed to anchoring out for free) is that the place is a tourist trap - a pleasant tourist trap to be sure, but still a tourist trap.   The Ixtapa area was designated a tourist area by the Mexican government way back in the 1970s and all construction here since has been toward those ends.   It has nice, large hotels, bike trails, a golf course, very nice restaurants, the cleaner beach, Carlos and Charlie's, several discothèques, a half-completed water-slide park and all the Mexican silver trinkets you could ever want (at inflated, tourist trap prices).  A wonderful place to spend a week's vacation drinking margaritas by the pool, but it's not really Mexico and there is little here in the way of actual infrastructure that cruisers or long term residents for that matter look for.  If you want a hardware store or a large supermarket or an alternator rebuilt you have to go in to Zihuatanejo, which is much more of a complete, functioning Mexican town.  Luckily, the trip is a quick 10 minute, 50 peso ride by taxi (only 6 pesos by bus) and we have already made many pilgrimages although we try very hard to avoid the days and hours when the cruise ships arrive in the bay, disgorging their throngs of sunburned masses in Bermuda shorts.  We've said it before, but in our opinion, cruise ships tend to ruin the places they visit and Zihuatanejo (with it's protected, deep water bay allowing the massive ships to anchor) is beginning to be impacted.   Already the number of shops selling worthless tourist junk along the waterfront are numerous, prices for restaurants and other tourist-facing services are higher then they are other places and the large shore launches going back and forth all day long from the anchored ship give off huge wakes, making the anchorage uncomfortable for smaller vessels.  Secondary impacts are also noticeable - a powerboat pulling a parasailer through the crowded anchorage ran over and hooked the stern anchor line of a friend's vessel (s/v Ayu) just two days ago and although damage was avoided, the unsuspecting tourist got dropped into the bay when the tow-boat was forced to stop to clear the line from it's prop, nearly missing the masts of several anchored vessels on the way down!  Parasailing fatalities and collisions with anchored boats here are relatively common and we would strongly recommend against parasailing here in the bay if you visit.  Still, Z-what retains much of that quaint, authentic Mexican feel to it.  We really like the downtown 'Centro' area.  The bay is beautiful, the local fish market thriving and there are tasteful, picturesque houses and small (e.g. 20 room) high end hotels built high into the cliffs surrounding the bay, recalling a scene more Mediterranean than Pacific.  You can also still find great hole-in-the-wall restaurants and local artisans here and there, particularly in the market a few blocks off the municipal beach.  Additionally, the massive daily wave of tourists have yet to impact the prices at the butcher, hardware or auto-part shops!   Although the water quality in the bay leaves much to be desired (the town has grown quickly in recent years, outstripping whatever semblance of sewage treatment facilities exist and we avoid going into the water on the inner beaches) dinghy landing access from the anchorage is convenient to downtown near the municipal pier and many boats spend months here either preparing to head further south, jump the puddle to the south pacific or head back north for the Summer.

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


Traditional 'Machette' dance, performed by local folk dancers at Rick's Bar, Zihuatanejo.

Margaret and Ken enjoying the show at Rick's.

This shot gives a new meaning to the term "Mexican Train'! Line dancing at Rick's bar.

Out for dinner one night, we found a Tamale resturant with a sizable instrument supply!

RJ and Kelsey provide the evening's musical entertainment.

Wow! Check this out! The pictures on this box actually move! This must be that TV thing we've been missing!

Yet another enounter with the Zuma Marimba family, playing Rick's in Zihuatanejo.

RJ and Kelsey hanging with their grandfather.

Marmit, Ken, Mel, RJ and Kelsey poolside at the Radison, Ixtapa.

Eric taking a photo of one of the crocadiles which frequent the marina in Ixtapa.

Sizable crocadile in the marina. If you look close, you can see the length of 300lb test line trailing from his mouth, which Eric later cut off.

Lepracauns leave treats onboard on St. Patrick's day in Ixtapa.

The Hendrich family comes to visit us in Ixtapa, extending our usage of the Radison pool!

RJ and his buddy John shopping in the 'Centro' area of Zihuatanejo.

Kelsey getting in a little retail therapy.

Kid's table at Tamale Annie's in Zihuatanejo.

The toilets in Mexico may not have seats or lids and you can't put paper down the bowl (septic can't handle it) but they sure do look pretty!

Sunset over Punta Ixtapa as seen from the Radison Hotel, Ixtapa. The marina entrance and jetty can be seen this side of the point.

Local artisan working in the market in Zihuatanejo.

Melissa purchased this plate in Zihuatanejo. This gentlemen is the artist.

Kelsey and Lauren on a day sail to go snorkling off of Isla Grande off Punta Ixtapa.

Easter week on Playa Los Gatos in Zihuatanejo. It got very crowded our last week in the Ixtapa area with Spring Breakers and Easter revelers!

John and RJ hanging on the beach at Playa Los Gatos, Zihuatanejo.

This live scorpion was on the table at Playa Los Gatos!!! Luckily, they didn't charge us extra for it!

Kids, beach, water and sun. A perfect receipe for fun!

RJ at the dentist in Zihuatanejo. A complete teeth cleaning is 200 pesos, less than US$18 at current exchange rates!

Kelsey getting her teeth cleaned in Zihuatanejo. She had two cavities, which cost 300 pesos (about US$27) to have filled.

RJ getting a massage on the beach in Ixtapa. The adults seemed to like it so much (at 200 pesos per hour, who wouldn't?) he wanted to give it a try!

Rj the limp noodle with his personal massuese!

Ben bungine jumping of a sort on the beach in Ixtapa.

RJ and John, good buddies.

Kelsey and Lauren, friends hanging at the Radison pool.

Hey, it's the Sulas!


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