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Alex and the Universe

Palapas, Boobies, and Snatam

MEXICO | Saturday, 7 March 2009 | Views [733] | Comments [2]

After the otherworldly landscape of the Baja, Pedro and I took an 18 hour ferry ride across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan, where we had a two hour break before we took a seven hour bus ride to Puerto Vallarta.  Two nights and a day of travel brought us to the massive resort town of PV at 5am.  Of course the one time that we could have used a couple hour delay on the bus, we arrived right on time.

A few weeks earlier, I had invited my family to come down for a week on the coast.  I had hoped that they would come, but I wasn´t expecting it.  As it turned out, my parents took me up on the invitation, and after our 6am check-in to Hotel Rosita, an older, quaint hotel right on the beach at the end of the PV Malecòn, Pete and I took a city bus back out to the aeropuerto where we welcomed my ´rents to Mexico.

That morning was one of those mornings that feels more like a dream--one that whose reality turns to much if you try to analyze it.  Like in dreams, you just have to accept the reality.  Yes, I am riding in a small aluminum boat in the Pacific Ocean.  Yes, those are my parents, pale and happy next to me.  Yes, that was a fin of a manta ray that slid past us in the water.  Yes, the wind is warm and those are palm trees and that´s Spanish that the captain is speaking.  And yes, after a year or two of Pete and my repeating the mantra: Missoula, Missoula, Missoula, I did find out this morning that I was accepted into the environmental writing program there. 

And so after the 45 minute water taxi ride, we arrived at the carless fishing/ex-pat village of Yelapa.  Online, Pete and I had found a Palapa, or thatched-roof, wall-less hut, set into the side of the thickly forested hillside for the four of us to live in for a week.  The water taxi dropped us and our bags off at Playa Isabel, a beach a few hundred yards from our Palapa home.  Despite our wet feet, we all quickly became quite comfortable there.  Pete had his kitchen, I had my hammock, Mom had her choice of quiet rock benches and (sometimes malfunctioning) chairs to read, and Dad had his new friend, Iggy the Iguana.

Yelapa was an eccentric, if not bizarre mix of real-live Mexican village and funky artistic English-speakers.  The four of us got comfortable navigating the unplanned paths and streets that often were clogged with burros, dogs, Catholic Masses, baby birthday parties, 3rd-grade librarians, and paragliders on their way to the top of the mountain.

Some days, we just snorkeled, swam, kayaked, watched the breaching humpbacks, and sun bathed around town.  We did, though, take a great hike up to a waterfall which you could swim up into and attempt to scale as the warm water batted down.  We also took a boat trip to the next town over, much more Mexican, much less USAn, where an on the spot guide brought us to¨"the big tree" and then the best beach.

The landscape and wildlife was absolutely tropical, such a radical change from Pete and my week in Los Cabos.  I´ll never doubt the incredible diversity of landscapes, cultures, and climates in this country.  I had no idea how many worlds existed in Mexico. 

One of those worlds that took me completely by surprise was the Marietta Islands.  Out on the ocean-side of Bahìa de Banderas, another 45 minute water taxi ride from Yelapa, our own personal guide in our own personal boat gave us a tour of the "Mexican Galapagos."  One of the first features to see was the white cliffs delineating the two small islands.  Next, was the total lack of trees.  The third, when we came close, was the profusion of birds, some of them with bright blue feet, that inhabited the islands.  They were Boobies, Blue-Footed Boobies, and they are a very endangered species.  We snorkeled beneath their nests set up on top of the cliffs, exploring a huge natural bridge that we could swim beneath to an enclosed room of a beach.  We spent the afternoon on one of the only beaches on the islands, watching the Boobies flying overhead, snorkeling, and eating the Ceviche, a raw fish lime juice deliciousness that our guide made for us on the spot. 

After our very rough trip back to Yelapa across a white-capped Banderas, we finished off our week by stopping by a free "chanting" performance held at the end of the beach at the other end of town.  It was the fancy, resort side of Yelapa, and beside the overly dramatic setting of the white tent and lighted stage, it turned out to be the last night of a two week long chanting retreat.  We felt a little bit like outsiders with the inside jokes about chakras and yogis, but at least Dad got to practice his meditation.  Actually, I already had some of the music of the world reknowned chanter, Snatam Kaur, who was leading the gathering.  And in her own right, her music can be beautiful.  But let´s just say that the big toads that hopped past us in the dark were the most exciting part of the night. 

Our week in Yelapa, I´m pretty sure we´d all agree, was almost too idyllic.  But as it was, I had a wonderful time sharing that surreal place with some of the most important people in my life. 

Tags: boobies, humpbacks, snatam kaur, yelapa




Ahhhhh. You captured it, Alex. Am I an ugly USAn if I say I would go back in a heart-beat, and do it all again, including the silly sunburn I should have avoided? And Matt, Dad DID NOT really meditate -- that is your brother's idea of a joke. On the other hand, I was in an altered state of complete peace for seven days whispering -- "my palapa in yelapa!"

  Mom Mar 23, 2009 8:46 AM


Just catching up on your travels, Alex, and it all sounds wonderful! I love your comment on "how many worlds exist in Mexico"--how true of anywhere, I think. Geography classes never seem to convey how amazingly diverse the world is, especially within the borders of a single country.

Congratulations on Missoula! I'm so excited for you!!

  Amy Bishop Apr 4, 2009 1:33 AM

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