More Sunshine From Puerto Vallarta

Aboard the Norwegian Star

I just heard the captain’s voice over the P.A. system. We’re about to get underway, leaving the dock at Puerto Vallarta. We were already here when I work up this morning.

I just can’t figure out how this happened – Wal*Mart and Sam’s Club are both, literally, across the street from the marina where we’re docked. There is something terribly wrong with this picture (though I’ll bet there are passengers who’ve come back with discount supplies, now stashed in their staterooms)

I want this cruise to be special. Maybe I’ll be spoiled. Maybe I’ll be pampered. I don’t want to dock across the street from Wal*Mart! Wal*Mart is the antithesis of why I’m cruising (and this has nothing to do with any controversy that already surrounds Wal*Mart).

Helaine and Steffie had a surprise planned for me, so we were awake on a schedule to shower in turn and catch the tour bus. We’d left a continental breakfast order last night, and it was delivered to the room right on time.

We got off the ship and headed into a bus. At the front was Cervander, our guide. He said it was an unusual name… somewhere between Cervantes and Cervesa. He was very personable and pointed out many of the sights along the way.

No one in the states knew Puerto Vallarta until “Night of the Iguana” was filmed there. Richard Burton and Ava Gardner was enough to pique our curiosity.

Puerto Vallarta is loaded with beach front property. Some of it is rugged, with cliffs rising from the water’s edge. In other spots there are white sandy beaches with ‘surfer size’ breakers.

This was to be a tropical jungle tour. On the one hand, that sounds spectacular. On the other hand, it implies a lot of rain! Luckily, we’re in the dry season, so this was a somewhat subdued jungle.

We headed to a restaurant, site of some scenes from “Predator,” with Governors Schwarzenegger and Ventura. Other that the shell of a prop helicopter, you’d never know.

We left the bus, made our lunch orders and, as a group, headed on a nature hike.

This area is lush with all sorts of flora and fauna. Today there was much more flora around. It was interesting to see the unusual vegetation and walk through a narrow, twisty, climbing trail.

Among other trees we saw bamboo growing. That surprised me because I didn’t think bamboo was indigenous to Mexico. Helaine looked for a koala. I’m putting the photo here,in case I’ve totally screwed up and misidentified what I saw.

We returned to the restaurant and I had an OK chicken fajitas. Nothing special, but we weren’t here for the food.

The restaurant was built adjacent to a river, with a waterfall just upstream. Some from the group waded in a flowing pond of cold water.

After lunch it was into Puerto Vallarta proper. The tour was supposed to take a half hour shopping break before continuing back to the docks. We decided we needed more than thirty minutes, so we told Cervander and ventured out.

The shopping area of Puerto Vallarta was a mix of US tourists and local families (this is, after all, Sunday). I have been in foreign ports where I felt unwelcome or even threatened. Not here.

The shopping area is built along a seawall. At the base are large smooth stones, which take the brunt of the Pacific’s waves. Every once in a while, white spray will rise as a particularly vigorous breaker strikes.

I didn’t go into too many stores, but it looked like jewelry and crafts from local artisans were the dominant force. Right along the beach front a few artists had set up paintings for sale.

Between a large church (it had that stately feel of a church that was probably the focal point of the city at one time) and the water was a plaza area. Within that plaza were a few large statues, including one with a mermaid.

Two young Mexican girls – the older might not have been 5 years old, were playing on the statue. When they saw my camera they playfully smiled.

There’s a line when it comes to photographing ‘strange’ children. Normally, I wouldn’t have taken the pictures, but under these circumstances it seemed right. They were so beautiful, in such a beautiful place.

Helaine and Stef were shopping as I continued to snap off some shots. When they came to meet me, there was a problem.

Helaine had tripped on a step and hurt her ankle. The pain was really bad at first, but she was able to walk on the leg. She didn’t want medical assistance.

Tonight, after a few hours, the leg is really hurting. She can still walk on it, but not easily. Even taking weight off the foot doesn’t bring relief. It is swollen, though not enough that I’d worry about a break.

I hope her leg won’t put too much of a damper on the vacation. We’ll have to see what develops over time.

At the moment we’re in the middle of our ‘showering by shift’ routine. We have a 7:30 reservation at Le Bistro, the French restaurant aboard the Norwegian Star.

Though food is included on our cruise, there are a few restaurants that have ‘special’ meals for a moderate surcharge. This is one. Helaine has read lots about their chocolate fondue. We’re all looking forward to trying it.

As further proof it’s not Helaine’s day, while she was in the shower we ran out of soap! Soap is dispensed as a liquid from a device on the shower’s wall. Things have been pushed behind schedule a little.

As she stood, dripping and shivering, we waited for the cabin steward to respond to my call to housekeeping and refill the dispenser.

As I write these entries, I realize there are small tidbits, usually peripheral to the main story, that I can’t include. The same goes for photos – neat, but not part of the written narrative.

When we get back, I’ll figure a way to integrate them into the blog, because I’d rather not leave anything out. Certainly, I’ll be posting dozens of photos in my online gallery.

We will wake tomorrow in Mazatlan, about 215 miles up the coast. Having a (mostly) great time. Wish you were here.

Blogger’s note: Because of the awkward Internet access on the Norwegian Star, some entries refer to the day before they are posted… like this one.

First California Pictures Posted

One thing I do while on vacation is shoot pictures. Sometimes, as I’m told by Helaine and Stef, I shoot too many.

I have posted the first 100+ from this trip to my online gallery.

This is a work in progress as these photos haven’t really been run through Photoshop yet. There is a little dust on the sensor to my camera (or there was – I blew it out yesterday evening).

If you know any of the surfers I’ve shot (what random luck that would be), let me know and I’ll be glad to get them higher resolution copies of their shots.

Later I will reorder the photos. Right now, the link here brings you in on the second page, past some of the more pedestrian shots.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands

This is probably going to be my last entry concerning the Florida trip, and the one I least anticipated before I went to visit my folks.

I had played golf Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. By Friday, my dad was a little sore (I was too) and he begged off. It was a lazy day – very quiet around the house. By early afternoon my mom had asked if I wanted to go to Wakodahatchee.

Sure… except, what is it?

Wakodahatchee Wetlands&#185 is a man made nature preserve in suburban Palm Beach County. If I understand correctly, it is the product of heavily treated waste water (I’m sure heavily treated and clean are two very different words) which is released into a number of manufactured environments.

The actual wetlands were built to allow for a number of different wet habitats. With no human encroachment, the wildlife is varied and flourishes.

For humans, the treat is the 3/4 mile long boardwalk which winds its way through the preserve. The afternoon we went, it was moderately busy. I would guess there were at least 100 people on the boards.

My luck was stumbling upon a ‘prosumer’ photographer. He had a substantial Nikon film camera with a long lens. He stood and shot, watching two blue herons building a nest high in a tree. I’m not sure I would have notified them had he not been so intense.

I took his cue and pulled out my Fuji S602Z. This is a great camera – the best I’ve ever owned. It can be used as a point and shoot camera, but what a waste. Its manual controls allowed me to preset for the shots I wanted, especially with the herons, where I made sure the shutter speed was fast and that I could burst 5 shots in rapid succession with the lens zoomed in fully.

That afternoon, I took some of the best shots I’ve ever taken. I’ve put together an album in my online gallery.

My recommendation (if you have high speed access); use the slideshow mode for the first 6 or 7 images (at least). The sequence with the heron arriving at his nest is really captured well.

&#185 – The official Wakodahatchee Wetlands website hasn’t been updated in over 2 years. A real shame.