Sunday, June 5, 2011

Yelapa: Our Mexican Vacation, Part I

As Tyler mentioned in a previous entry, Stella is a great traveller. In less than three years, she's probably been on more plane rides than I had been through graduate school. She does well in transit, she loves hotel rooms and adventures and changes of scenery. But most of our travel the last two and a half years has been to visit family. My parents are in Texas, our siblings are in California, and my mom's family is in Illinois, so seeing any of them mostly means hopping on a plane.

Our last real vacation was almost two years ago when we went to Hawaii. We'd been talking about another real vacation in various locations (Iceland, Buenos Aires, Mexico, Portugal, Hawaii's Big island) at various timepoints (fall for South America, winter for Mexico or Hawaii), but there were many practical reasons to keep putting things off: I was busy with work, we'd be on maternity leave this summer (which isn't a vacation, but did have work implications), and we could use all the money we could get to keep our basement remodel moving along. But one day it seriously struck us that travel was only going to get harder for awhile after baby number 2's arrival, and we got serious about planning. We saw some sales for Mexico, Seattle had experienced an unusually cold and rainy spring (after an unusually cold and rainy summer last year), and we just decided we had to make it happen.

So Mexico it was. We'd had a couple friends go to Yelapa, a small Pueblo only accessible by water taxi about 40 minutes south of Puerto Vallarta) and others who raved about Sayulita (sleepy fishing/surfing town about 40 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta), so we decided to get the best of both worlds and spend four nights at each location.

So early Monday morning (4AM early), we headed to Seatac. We had a brief stop in San Francisco and then continued on to Puerto Vallarta (PV). The only possible flaw in our plan was that the time between when our plane arrived in PV and when the last water taxi left for Yelapa headed out was do-able but tight. To help decrease the likelihood of missing the boat, we had asked our hotel to arrange a car to take us to the water taxi pier, thinking that one less thing to deal with after a long day of travel would be good. But, lo and behold, when we got to the exit, there wasn't anyone holding a sign with our names. So much for that plan. After hmming and hawing a bit and trying to call the hotel, we decided to just take our chances with one of the drivers trying to pick up riders. One bumpy ride through PV later, and we found that the last water taxi had already departed from there and we'd need to go to another town about 20 minutes away to catch the very last option for the day. We'd kind of known that was a possibility, and we had about 30 minutes, so not all hope was lost, but we were not excited about the possibility of having to make last minute arrangements for an alternate plan. Fortunately, our driver was very nice and helpful and we did, in fact, make the other ferry after a slightly tense drive on a speed-bump-filled road. Our aggravation with the hotel and our fatigue quickly gave way to relief and a starting sense of relaxation as we then bounced across the waves to get to Yelapa.

The water taxi to Yelapa

Stella seemed to do pretty well, hanging out in my arms with her life jacket on (which we brought), though she did look a bit green at one point. Soon enough it was time to disembark, which meant pulling the boat nearly to shore then jumping out into the water. We hopped off (some of us more gracefully than others) and started trudging down the beach with all our bags to get to the hotel.

This was another less than promising bit of the arrival--the beach is beautiful, but the sand is really gravell-y and it was hot, so it was not so comfortable to walk on. And, being 7+ months pregnant, I couldn't carry much. And Stella thinks waves are "too loud" and wouldn't walk, so Tyler ended up being quite the beast of burden. But we arrived to a very welcoming staff and knew soon enough we'd really get to unwind.

One of our first pictures--I wanted to post this on facebook with the caption "this does not suck"

Hotel Lagunita was delightful. We were in a thatched roof "casita", with big windows that opened up to a view of the saltwater swimming pool and bay.

Hotel lagunitas from the restaurant--not a bad home for a few days.

From our balcony, our daily view of the saltwater pool and the bay. Stella doesn't like waves, but she does like water. It did take us a few dips to learn where all the rocks were (so we could avoid kicking them) and the shallow spots were (where we could hold Stella or have her stand).

Our casita's balcony as seen from the pool

Pretty quickly, our days took on a routine: Tyler and Stella would wake up first, walk to the restaurant to get a pot of coffee which we'd then enjoy on the balcony, then breakfast on the beach. We'd watch pelicans dive for food and watch fishermen arriving back with their fishing boats then take their kayaks back to shore. Terrible start to the day, no?

Good morning! Stella thought it was pretty fun to have the windows wide open.

After a cold summer, winter and spring, it was nice to let Stella wear a dress and sandals, without having to complement it with pants and a sweater. She seemed to agree she looked pretty cute!

Stella primarily lived on pancakes for breakfast and quesadillas the rest of the time. Not ideal, but we figured it wouldn't make her sick, and she probably couldn't get scurvy in 9 days....

After that, we'd either hang out on the beach or take a swim in the pool (the beach in Yelapa isn't a great swimming beach). The hotel had thatched areas with lounge chairs and hammocks where they'd also provide food and drink service.

R&R on the beach under a palapa--my belly apparently makes a pretty good pillow!

Who can complain when they're in a hammock on a quiet beach?!

After a day or two of this, Tyler started getting a little antsy to do more exploring. So one day we hiked along the stretch of beach from our hotel's side to the pueblo's ("city") side. One of the reasons we'd been interested in Yelapa is that it's very quiet--as I mentioned, you can only get in and out by boat, so there are not cars. Mostly people use horses or donkeys, though we saw a few ATVs.

The beach and hotel from the other side of the bay

The first day, we walked through the more main part of the little town to see a nearby waterfall. It's dry season now, so there was only a small trickle. And the other challenge of the hike is that Tyler has to carry Stella a lot. In the heat and on the sand. And she complained the entire time that it's "too loud." We didn't get tons of pictures of the town because on the third day of our trip, our camera just completely died, so the rest of the trip was captured on Tyler's phone's camera.

This is how Stella spent most her "walks" on the beach, on Tyler's shoulders with her ears covered, saying "too loud!"

We did decide to take a second trek over and walk the other way along the river where most of the residents live and which eventually leads to another waterfall, though we knew we wouldn't get that far.

"Hiking" along the river on the pueblo side--lots of lizards, horses, donkeys, beautiful flowers, chickens and roosters

Probably Stella's favorite time in Yelapa--looking at tadpoles and throwing things into the river

On our way back from that walk, we ran into a man from Montreal who was living in a small house in Yelapa with his wife and two kids. We found out they had started off on a two-month trip but had decided to extend it indefinitely, selling most of their belongings remotely and documenting the process of living abroad in this manner with kids through a blog. They were very nice and fun to talk to--we wished we had met them earlier so we could have talked with them more. But, interestingly to me, I didn't find myself envious of them. I think what they're doing is admirable and interesting and, in some ways, enviable, but I was somewhat happy to realize that I really am happy to be in a more settled place in my life for now. I like our house and my work life and our friends and our stability. Sure, I'd like more travel and adventure on a more regular basis, but I didn't find myself wishing we were still on the road being intrepid travellers again.

Given Stella's displeasure at making the trek to the town, we spent all our evenings at the hotel, which had its plusses and minuses--the food was fine if it got a little predictable after a couple days, but the view was gorgeous and it was great to have a built in playground of sand so we could linger over drinks and our meals.

We got tired of the selection, but the location of the hotel restaurant really never disappointed.

One of our daily habits--sharing a limonada on the beach

Not a terrible way to spend our evenings, watching the sunset with a lemonade (for me and Stella) and a Pacifico (for Tyler) on the beach.

Of course, I realize as I write all this, two weeks have already softened some of the rougher edges of travelling. I won't lie--there were moments when it did not feel like a vacation to be with Stella. She decided for almost the entire time we were in Yelapa that she was no longer using the potty, a contingency we hadn't planned for. And her dislike of being close to the waves limited what we could do and meant not taking some cool possible day trips that we might have taken otherwise. But I left really charmed by Yelapa. The people we met there were all very nice, and the slow pace was a great way to start our vacation.

1 comment:

Emily said...

Despite a few hiccups,what a fabulous baby moon! It looks beautiful there and I love your reflection on being happy to travel but not having the itch anymore to be constantly wandering. We're glad to have you guys living a "normal" life here in Seattle!