Well, this post is probably more for my and Mike’s reminiscences than anything because having shared a brilliant 17days with John and Jerie [who left “Peking” on the hard in Rio Dulce, Guatemala and came across to Zihuatanejo to join us and “Nauti Nauti” for Christmas and New Year] those memories just have to be captured for posterity. So, there are lots of photos about partying – which cruisers do very well!
But first, we had to get to Zihuatanejo and I concluded the previous post with us setting sail from Isla La Roqueta, Acapulco on 14th December for the 120 mile trip. On route a shrimp boat took a fancy to “Nauti Nauti” and Allen had to take evasive action to avoid him but, other than that incident in the middle of the night, it was calm and uneventful and we both anchored around 7.30 am the following morning at “Barra de Potosi” at the southern end of the Bahía de Petatlán.
We had read that there was good snorkelling nearby and a number of local restaurants lining the beach so, given it was only approximately 2 hours south of Zihuatanejo, we thought we would check it out in case John and Jerie felt like taking a short day [or overnight] cruise during their stay. However, what we found was strong surf hitting the main beach, a river entrance you wouldn’t want to take a dinghy through and a rocky shore along the only other access point to the village. Given the wind and swell direction it was also a rolling anchorage [when we were there], so after a couple of hours we lifted the anchor, motored across Petatlán Bay, rounded Punta El Faro……
Zihuatanejo is a great place. In February it hosts a sailfest [maybe next year?] and in March a guitar festival but it is a fabulous place to drop the hook at any time. The beach is calm and does not require a surf landing and there are a couple of local guys who – for M$20 [80p/US$1.15] per day -help you land and launch your dinghy and look after it while you are in town. [The dinghy landing is between the pier and the fishing pangas/fish market].
The town of Zihuatanejo has grown around what was once [until the 1970’s] a sleepy fishing village. For the most part it has retained its charm with narrow, cobblestone streets and the “Paseo del Pescador” [Fisherman’s Passage] where, as mentioned above, the daily catch is sold.
Proud of their heritage and culture, there are statues dotted all around the town representing each of the indigenous groups which originally lived in the Guerrero region. For whatever reason they are all, except for the fisherman, of women.
However, Mike did get conned into buying some local cigars….
John and Jerie arrived on 20th December and our first celebration was Jerie’s birthday the following day. We started the evening in grand style by tipping John into the water from the dinghy! N.B. Three people on one side with no-one on the other is not a good idea!!!!! A change of clothes later and we made it to town for a lovely meal – which reminds me that I have forgotten to tell you that there are lots and lots of restaurants in Zihuatanejo to suit all budgets and tastes.
We started with nachos and salsa – made to our preferred level of “heat” at the table….
I can’t now remember what Mike had for his main course but it obviously wasn’t as photo worthy as my super “Molcajete de Camarones”…….
………a wonderful tomato, garlic and onion based stew with melted cheese and lots of shrimps [large prawns] and herbs. This was the first time we had seen this on a menu – I will be looking out for it again.
A really great start to our “holiday” festivities.
Celebrating Christmas in a country which recognises the event but which doesn’t spoil it with month long [or more] build up is really nice. The town was festive but the decorations only started to appear from around the time we arrived. Stalls set up specifically to sell Piñatas….
The tradition is that from 16-24 December there are processions and parties called “Posadas” [the word for an “inn”]. The procession “asks for shelter” at one or more homes and is finally accepted at a particular home. The piñata contains a vessel [clay pot] which represents Satan holding all the world’s good things but which has been hidden and decorated to attract people. There are supposed to be seven points representing the seven cardinal sins[ but all the ones we saw only had five – maybe one is allowed to be more sinful these days! At the end of each posada children beat the piñata with a stick to defeat evil and release the treasure. Although in many places the procession tradition has lapsed, most homes still buy the piñata – so we bought one each for “Siga Siga” and “Nauti Nauti”.
….and, on Christmas Eve, they lit the “tree” in the main square which had been sculpted from sand during the preceding few days.
Christmas Day was my and Mike’s “responsibility”. We had asked each person to buy a gift for everyone else which cost no more than US$5 [£3.50] which in itself was a fun task as we all separately scoured local shops and markets. The gifts were anonymous as we all used the same paper and labels for everyone written by one person [me!]. The result was an impressive pile of presents which Santa had to hand out one at a time. Allen made a brilliant video of the event, taken as we enjoyed our morning Buck’s Fizz [Mimosa], but unfortunately WordPress doesn’t seem to want to upload it so photos of the start of our day [well 11am start] will have to suffice.
…..especially the square egg maker!……..
We told everyone to keep their used wrapping paper because, as UK family and friends will know, paper hats are a tradition – and its much more fun to make your own….
A 10 mile sail north and west across the “Bahía de San Juan de Dios” is “Isla Grande” [also known by locals as “Isla Ixtapa”]. It is incredibly popular with locals and tourists and hundreds of water taxis ply the route between it and the mainland every day but, just like Isla La Roqueta, after 6pm it is totally quiet. Although we went ashore one day for lunch – which, incidentally, we found to be rather poor and over priced compared to other such palapa meals we have eaten – our main purpose in spending four of the nights between Christmas and New Year anchored off the island was to clean the bottom of both boats.
We have found the Pacific waters even more profligate for growth than the Caribbean – lots of barnacles everywhere and weedy “beards” on the waterline. It took the six of us three good mornings of work to complete the job. On Day 1 Mike scraped – rather badly – the knuckle of his thumb and it really swelled up – so he was then out of action under water [though was able to work on the waterline]. So, Day 2 was just me trying to clear the rest of the hull and I have to give lots of thanks to John, Jerie, Allen and Patricia who, having finished “Nauti Nauti” on Day 2, came to help me clear the rest of “Siga Siga” on our last day there.
So it was back to Zihuatanejo for New Years Eve. On our return from Isla Grande we anchored approximately where we had been before. A walk ashore suggested that this might not be such a good idea- all those rocket launchers aimed straight as us!
Even if we had not had the sense ourselves to move, when Mike and I returned to the boat the maritime police had spoken to “Nauti Nauti”and ordered us to do so. Given that a palapa building on the hillside above the boat blazed for several hours later that night their warning was probably a good one – though we think it was probably one of the “Chinese Lanterns” which set that roof alight and not a firework. Those lanterns really are an issue – not only to boats [and houses!] but also to wildlife.
For NYE we had decided to eat on board and, though Patricia contributed with a huge salad and Mike and I made a big bowl of garlic mushrooms, Jerie took real charge of the catering producing superb sushi….
…. well, most of us did – though the t-shirt was at least clean!
….and all in all it was an excellent way to celebrate the end of one good year and welcome 2016. [Even better, though I didn’t know it at the time, my wonderful sister Chris and her fabulous fella John became engaged at midnight UK time whilst we hadn’t even started our fun as it was only 5pm in Mexico].
So, we had shared a birthday, Christmas and New Year – but the fun wasn’t over yet. John and Jerie wanted to see a bit more of Mexico, Mike and I are always up for an adventure and, having enjoyed the trip the four of us made from Puerto Madero to San Cristóbal in October, Allen and Patricia thought a few days inland would be a good idea too. We left the boats in Marina Ixtapa [more about that later] and, on 2nd January caught an overnight bus to Chilpanchingo followed by another to Cuernavaca. [Unfortunately the direct bus was totally booked up – though we were able to use just one bus back].
Cuernavaca is described as traditionally attracting high society visitors year round for its climate, clean air and attractive architecture. The climate was good, not sure about the air quality as there seemed to be an almost permanent traffic jam with car fumes and, whilst we saw one or two streets and a few buildings which could be described as attractive, most were not – at least on the outside. That is not to say that we didn’t enjoy visiting it and, having decided to go for lunch one day at “La India Bonita” we can attest to there being attractive interior patios.
The building, originally known as “Casa Mañana”- because of the delays in construction! – was built for a US ambassador but its name was changed to “La India Bonita” when it became a restaurant – its namesake reputedly being “the pretty Indian” – one of Emperor Maximilian of Spain’s lovers during his summer visits to the city.
Another beautiful house, tucked away in a side street near to the Cathedral was the “Casa de la Torre” – former home of and now a museum dedicated to Robert Brady, an independently wealthy American art collector and “friend of the famous”. As well as being close to Peggy Guggenheim, Brady regularly welcomed other guests such as Rita Hayworth, Maria Callas and Ali McGraw to his home. Off limits to museum visitors, I am sure the pool and garden area was the site of many a party.
….. walls and windowsills covered in paintings, masks, bottles and various other small collections of shells, keys, dolls etc.
A painter himself, he immortalised his cook “Maria” on one wall of his kitchen…
A peasant leader from the Morales region, Emiliano Zapata was among the most radical of Mexico’s revolutionaries, fighting for the return of hacienda land to the peasants. He won numerous battles against A peasant leader from the Morales region, Emiliano Zapata was among the most radical of Mexico’s government troops [some in association with Pancho Villa] but was ambushed and killed in 1919. He remains a great hero to many of the Mexican people and statues commemorating him, and early male and female Zapatistas surround the Central Plaza in Cuervenaca.
Only part of the top floor of the Regional Museum was dedicated to the revolutionaries. Other interesting features included a section of the building – the “Palacio de Cortés” – showing the base of the Cuauhnáhuac pyramid that Cortés destroyed before building his fortress like palace on top of it.
Whilst staying in Cuernevaca we also visited the nearby town of Taxco. Scattered down a steep hillside the town is dominated by the “Templo de Santa Prisca” with its twin baroque belfries.
Very wealthy silver deposits were discovered here by the Spaniards in C16 and, whilst the earliest miners left Taxco after depleting the top vein, later discoveries kept the industry flourishing into C20. Unfortunately almost all the ore has now gone but the town thrives on tourism with silver “museums” and statues….
….and jeweller’s shops on every turn in the road. It is a very quaint town to wander through….
… and we also found a maze of a market which we think was once just lots of small street stalls covering a large area of the city – on several levels – which has more lately been covered.There was even a small church inside.Outside another of the cities churches were these rather “dark” statues…
Back in Cuernevaca Mike and I took a late afternoon walk to the Cathedral which stands in a large high walled “Recinto” [compound]. The main cathedral – the “Templo de la Asunción de Maria”, is plain and solid ….
The tradition dates back to the Middle Ages in Europe and, surprise, surprise, was brought to Latin America from Spain. These days the small “Jesus” are apparently made from plastic –so its no wonder the recipe for the bread says make sure it is placed in the middle of the dough so it doesn’t touch the oven! – but originally it was a painted split pea – a much nicer idea I think.
The 6th January was also the day we said goodbye to John and Jerie as they continued on to Mexico City whilst Allen, Patricia, Mike and I returned to Marina Ixtapa to prepare to travel north once more.
I said above that I would say a little more about Marina Ixtapa. A very well protected marina it is part of the modern community built specifically for tourism. Ixtapa the town – if you can call it that – is not really worth visiting [as a cruiser] as it is just one large hotel complex after another along the beach. But, as a safe place to leave your boat in the short or longer term it is worth consideration. It is also the only marina in the 300 mile stretch between Acapulco and the Manzanillo/Barra de Navidad area.
The breakwater entrance is quite “interesting”.
The above photograph was taken when we were leaving on a calm day. In reality, the entrance is both narrow and shallow and we surfed in! In a moderate to large swell the breaking waves can make entry or exit dangerous and the cruising guide recommends hailing the marina to check the conditions.
Other things to take note of are the signs all around the marina…..
So, whilst all good things came to an end in relation to a brilliant time spent in excellent company over the Christmas and New Year period we are still having fun with Allen and Patricia and know that good things come round again – so we hope/expect to meet up with John and Jerie in the future. Meanwhile we treasure the memories of their time with us and say Thanks for coming across to Mexico for a “Siga Siga”/”Nauti Nauti” time.