Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The (s)mile high club

Flying high over the bay of Nuevo Vallarta...
Flying high over the beaches of Nuevo Vallarta...
Parasailing is ubiquitous in tropical resort locations and Nuevo Vallarta was no exception.

The older guy to the left here would walk up and down the beach flying the parachute like a kite to entice tourists into taking the plunge... erm, taking flight. I could only think that he must have some serious back muscles from pulling on this thing all day.

My wife and I are parasailing veterans so we passed on this particular adventure.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Surf City (Not)

In Nuevo Vallarta, these are considered dangerous waves...
Surfing the 'dangerous' waves of Nuevo Vallarta...
The beach near our resort wasn't ideal for surfing. The waves were large enough, but they curled and collapsed too quickly for any decent runs.

Still, anything is better than nothing, so I looked forward to getting on the water. It turned out to be an exercise in frustration. The local beach authority red flags the beaches anytime there is a hint of surf. The rental cabanas are not allowed to rent out gear when that happens. By West Coast standards the waves that rolled in would barely have earned a shrug from local surfers.

I did manage to get out for one morning for a few hours on an unbalanced paddle board with a too-long paddle. At one point I glanced down to see four stingrays swimming along beside me.

"Mental note," I thought. "DO NOT fall in the stingrays." It was a good incentive to make sure I stayed on the board.

A few days on the beach we witnessed a young girl being evacuated by ambulance. She had somehow been stung in the face by a stingray. There was a fair amount of blood that we could see, but otherwise she seemed okay.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Life and Death on a Mexican Beach

One baby sea turtle that didn't make it...
A dead sea turtle hatchling is a silent testament to harsh nature...
On our first day on the beach in Nuevo Vallarta, I noticed the pelicans and gulls over the beach periodically diving down to the sand to pluck at some small dark objects which they promptly swallowed before taking flight again.

I could only glimpse the objects and I initially thought they were some sort of dried fruit. It turns out they were snatching the dead and dying baby sea turtles on the beach.

Sea turtles come ashore to lay their bury their eggs in nests below the sand. The turtles emerge at night and have a few hours to scramble to the water before they succumb to the flying predators, or the sun's burning rays.

The remains of a sea turtle nest...
The remains of a sea turtle nest.
There were a few notices along the beach about not disturbing the nests or the babies, but given that Nuevo is a very crowded public beach with people, horses, dogs, and birds, I suspect that a lot of these animals don't live very long lives.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"Get to da choppa!"

Predator statues on display in a Mexican gift shop...
No, not an ancient Mayan god...
Okay, I bet you're wondering about the weird title of today's post. It's one of the classic lines from that Arnold Schwarzenegger cinematic masterpiece Predator. Over on Youtube you can see the original version and Arnold's modern update.

But you're still confused? What has that go to do with Puerto Vallarta? Well, it turns out the movie was filmed in nearby jungles. In fact, the wreckage of the 'choppa' still exists and some local tours will take you to the film's shooting locations.

Local tourist vendors have taken advantage of this fact to produce and hawk Predator-related paraphernalia such as the statues above. I can't see this stuff appealing to anyone but teenage males. They wouldn't be old enough to remember the original film, but they've probably seen the numerous sequels and spin-off movies since.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Critters

Fast gecko was not fast enough for me...
Fast gecko... was not... fast enough.
We found this gecko sprinting around the walls of our bathroom. I'm guessing s/he hitched a ride into our room via a room service trolley. Not to worry. After we trapped it, we released it outside unharmed.

At the other end of the size scale we encountered this goodly-sized iguana at a local marina. Iguanas are served up as food in some Central and South American countries. Apparently they DO NOT taste like chicken, but more like cooked hen or Peking roast duck from Google sources.

A large iguana hangs out at the local marina...
Iguanas... colourful AND tasty...

Friday, November 18, 2016

Puerto Vallarta

The main beach of Neuvo Vallarta...
Blue skies and sun over the beach...
My wife and I recently returned from a week long vacation in Nuevo Vallarta. The frequent overcast skies combined with the high temperatures made for a comfortable experience.

This was our first experience on the west coast of Mexico after two previous visits to the Caribbean side.

Our very comfortable resort...
The Marival resort...

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Day at the Gallery

A delicate figurine carved in ivory...
Subtle colours and details...
My wife and I recently visited Victoria's Art Gallery. I hadn't been there in a decade or more.

On the day that we visited, there was a collection of Chinese art on display.

Pieces like the one above leave me with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I am in awe of the time and talent that it took to carve the delicate details into the block of ivory above and tint it so softly. On the other hand, it bothers me to think that elephants and rhinos have been poached to the edge of extinction to provide the ivory for this art.

The pagoda in the Zen garden...
The Art Gallery features a small Zen garden.



Monday, November 14, 2016

Ballet... it's not for sissies...

The fortified entrance to the Victoria Academy of Ballet...
Ballet... like prison, but with tutus
instead of orange jumpsuits.
I recently came across the downtown entrance to the Victoria Academy of Ballet. See those loops across the top of the gate? Barbed wire.

The only way to sneak out of this prison is sur les pointes.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Con mi vida

With my life...
Love? Inspiration? Or...??
Speaking of Mexico...

Recently I took a hike to the top of nearby Christmas Hill overlooking Saanich and, further out, downtown Victoria. Someone had very recently painted this Spanish phrase on the rocks.

Google translates this expression as 'with my life'. It doesn't seem to have any meaning on its own... it's usually used in larger expressions, e.g.

Así es que ahora siento que no sé a ciencia cierta qué es lo que va a pasar con mi vida. 

So now I feel I don't know very well what is going to happen with my life.

So, the context of it is a mystery. If any Spanish-speaking visitors know the significance of this phrase, please share it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wayback Wednesday: Hustle

Locals and tourists stroll Carmen del Playa's 5th Avenue...
Carmen del Playa's 5th Avenue...
We first went to the Mexican resort town of Carmen del Playa, located on the Caribbean coast, in 2012. One of the main attractions is 5th Avenue, a long stretch of local vendors and some American lifestyle/music chain stores.

Hustle is the name of the game here. With so many vendors competing for your dollar, the local merchants have a number of scams to earn your trust.

One of the more common ones is to greet you as if they have met you before. They will claim to have been your restaurant server/room service/whatever at the resort where you are staying. In reality, they identify your resort from the unique wrist band that most visitors are issued upon their arrival at the all-inclusives.

If you're the type who feels uncomfortable rebuffing aggressive sales types, the experience is likely to leave you exhausted as you politely excuse yourself again and again. Otherwise, just treat it as part of the life down there... certainly the locals won't feel offended as they will simply look past you for their next mark. You can read my TripAdvisor review of our experience here.

On the prowl for their next mark...
Vendors on the lookout for new marks customers...

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Inn is out

The Colwood Inn, in search of a new home...
The Colwood Inn is looking for a forever home...
Decades ago -- longer than I will admit here -- I was a young cadet at Royal Roads Military College (RRMC), training to be an officer in our Navy.

During our time at the college, we were forced to wear uniforms, or regimental jackets, ties and trousers when off the campus grounds. Easily identifiable, we were frequently harassed by local yahoos when we were out on the town. As a result, we tended not to wander far from the college to socialize, and the Colwood Inn was a favourite watering hole for us.

It was located a short walk from our campus. The patrons were familiar with us and content to leave us alone.

On a recent visit to Colwood, I was surprised to see that the Inn was still intact, albeit behind a chain link fence and up on blocks. I assumed that it had been bulldozed years ago to make way for inevitable new malls and condos.

Apparently, there were plans to re-locate the Inn, but they've been put on hold due to the bankruptcy of the developer of the site. For now, it sits, waiting for its eventual fate to be determined.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Dark Knight

The Batman fails to intimidate...
Batman... less threatening than a balloon...
The Dark Night himself, aka Batman, put in multiple appearances at last weekend's Wicked Victoria event.

Government Street was closed to traffic. Food vendors and activities for the children kept families entertained for hours.

Batman (above) apparently had little effect on the kids. Which was surprising because he was tall. Seriously tall. He towered head, shoulders (and chest) above the crowd. I asked him how tall he was. 6 feet, 10 inches!

At the other end of the scale, this pint sized Caped Crusader caught some attention in his suitably small Bat-stroller.

Mini-Caped Crusader...
That Batman has a Bat-gizmo for everything!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Suspended

Suspension bridge over the chasm below Elk Falls...
Suspended over Elk Falls...
This suspension bridge near Campbell River on Vancouver Island gives a bird's eye view of Elk Falls and the chasm 180 feet below. You know what would be really impressive? A zip line across the face of the falls and down the length of the chasm. I'd pay money for that!

Elk Falls near Campbell River...
Elk Falls...