Jungle Tour

Trip Start Dec 22, 2006
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Trip End Feb 10, 2008


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Flag of Mexico  ,
Sunday, February 25, 2007

When we woke up today, the sand fleas were horrific so it was decided that the estuary tour was not in the cards. The only thing we wanted to do was get out of Teacapan. Michael woke up early and watched the sunrise. By the time Geraldine got up, Michael had befriended yet another dog. The temperature was very cool in the morning at Teacapan. The ground was wet until nearly 8:30am before the sun was sufficiently warm enough to dry things up.
 
To prevent any further embarrassing horn mishaps, Michael decided to take apart the steering wheel and disconnect the horn altogether. Our neighbours at the beach were kind enough to give us a bottle of gas line antifreeze after we explained to them that 'Nilla was chugging a bit on the drive the day before. It was our best guess that some condensation accumulated in the tank and gas line while 'Nilla sat in Mazatlan for so long. Not to mention the gas down here has been known to be a little lower in quality than the product we are used to north of the border.
 
After tending to 'Nilla's needs we scarfed down some breakfast, washed up, and were on the road. As we rolled on down the highway we passed some interesting sights. First we passed a coconut farm that had rows upon rows of palm trees all standing over 50 feet tall. We stared down the rows to which there was no end in sight. On the opposite side of the highway were a gathering of Brahma bulls (aka Sebu). The bulls were all quietly lying down in the field minding their own business until we rolled up. As Geraldine snapped photographs of the palm trees, Michael began to 'moo' incessantly at the cows. The cows started to rise to attention and stare back at the van. After a few minutes of 'mooing', all of the cows were on their feet. It was hilarious to see. We gather that these cows did not see many crazy tourists and we were more than happy to be a source of amusement to them.
 
Once the roadside entertainment subsided, we focused on knocking off some kilometres and getting to San Blas. We are not quite sure why we were so anxious to leave the bugs in Teacapan, because we have heard nothing but horror stories about the mosquitoes, sand fleas, and no-see-ums in San Blas. There were sights to be seen in San Blas and we were set on going. We arrived in San Blas late in the afternoon and spent a while trying to find the Tourist Information office. There were two main issues in finding the tourist office. The first was navigating the odd collection of one-way streets in San Blas and the second was finding a parking spot for big ol 'Nilla. After getting both issues resolved we walked to the town square only to find out that the office was closed because it was Sunday. Just our luck. A local federal officer pointed us to an alternate Tourist Information office located at the beach in El Borrego, not 2 minutes out of town. So off we went.
 
The beach area was abuzz with people. It seems that everyone from San Blas and the surrounding communities hit the beach with their families during the weekend. Not too surprising once we realized what day of the week it was. There was ample parking at the beach which was a nice alternative from the town centre. After parking we went for a walk to the old San Blas Hotel. We heard from a friend that the hotel was falling down, however you could stay there if you wanted to. We were intrigued about this decrepit hotel and had to venture down the beach to find it. Once the hotel came into view the two of us were at a loss for words. The hotel was more than simply falling down, it was overgrown with trees, weeds and a mere carcass of what it once was. In talking with an older local man near the fenced off hotel grounds, we learned that the 100 room hotel was once a beautiful place that attracted numerous visitors and celebrities from 1951 to 1972. Unfortunately, San Blas was all but forgotten and the hotel on the beach attracted less and less visitors, until it eventually had to close its doors for good when Puerta Vallarta was put on the map with Hollywood flicks such as the Night of the Iguana (starring Elizabeth Taylor and then husband Richard Burton). Soon Puerto Vallarta began to take off and infrastructure was popping up including new resorts and an international airport...and it became 'the' place to go.
 
We ventured into the grounds of the hotel and were amazed by the size of this old structure. The pool was massive and Michael could not resist stopping off to catch a few sun rays while we were there. The grounds are no longer immaculately groomed as they likely once were, and now they are overgrown about mid-shin deep with weeds and other assorted low lying bushes. It was a bit of a treacherous walk just to make it to the hotel's old lobby. The concrete on the building has been falling off in massive chunks and in certain sections there is a view from the lobby all the way up and past the third floor. Most of the doors and window frames were still in tact, however the were a bit worse for wear. We ventured into a few rooms and found nothing but piles of old bed frames and an assortment of other trash. We were searching for a hidden gem of a souvenir that would be lying around after all these years....as if we were the first people to scavenge around this place. The rooms did not have anything of interest, however there was a beautiful tile mosaic around a semi-circular counter that was shimmering in the late afternoon sun, emitting shades of white, red, green, blue and purple. The bond between the tile and the counter was deteriorating and we were able to pick up a few tiles to commemorate our visit. We think we have enough to create a small, very small, tile mosaic at our place in Calgary when we return. After digging through the dirt to pick up the loose tiles we moved on to check out the upper floors of the hotel. This brought one rather interesting problem...BATS! We were at the hotel at sunset and the bats that now call the hotel home were starting to wind up for some evening activity. Everywhere we tried to walk, we ran into handfuls of bats circling the ceiling and swooping down to fly between rooms. Our path seemed all but blocked in every direction. We were a bit frustrated with the bats until we resolved ourselves to the fact that we were actually in their home and they were not invading our self-guided tour. As the sun continued to fall into the ocean and out of sight, the bat activity continued to increase, which made it a no-brainer to end the tour and hike back to camp.  Click on this link to see the photos we snapped at the hotel....http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slideshow.jsp?mode=fromshare&Uc=16xvaj2z.7i6j3vg7&Uy=-5b24c&Ux=0
 
When we returned to 'Nilla, the main parking lot at beach was nearly empty and 'Nilla stood out like a sore thumb under the parking lamp. Before our walk, we met the federal police officer that patrols the beach area and also runs the small Tourist Office. Upon our return, he was gracious enough to stop us to explain that we would be able to spend the night in the parking lot and he would watch over us. We have heard both good and bad about the Mexican Federal police force, however this officer was most helpful in providing us with maps and information about San Blas, that we felt comfortable enough to take him up on his offer. As we prepared dinner and settled in to our parking lot Camp, we did notice that the officer was always in sight, as promised, keeping an eye on things. This was very comforting as there was a bit of a raging tailgate party of locals in the next lot. We appreciated the extra set of eyes and obvious muscle in our corner.
 
The following morning we awoke to find the same officer still sitting on a nearby bench watching over us like an over-protective parent. Wow, what hospitality. There was not much in the way of public bathrooms down by the beach unless the restaurants or cantinas are open. At the early hour we awoke, there was nothing open as far as the eye could see. We thought we would ask our Federal chaperone if he could suggest somewhere to use the bathroom. Again, with a wonderful smile on his face, he kindly opened the door to his office and let us in to use it at will. We were most grateful! After packing up the van, we returned to the office to thank our new friend one last time. After exchanging pleasantries, we turned to walk back to the 'Nilla, when he called us back to offer us two fresh coconuts that were cut from a nearby tree during the night. We have never chopped or prepared fresh coconuts, but also never stared a gift horse in the mouth. With armload of thanks and numerous smiles and nods we sauntered back to the van to get ready to pull out and explore some more.
 
Michael was anxious to get back to the north side of town where they offer jungle tours to La Tovara. We had little to no direction on how to find a tour, however we guessed that the tours would be somewhere near water so we headed there. It was not long before we found a helpful local that was willing to take us on the Tovara tour in his boat. We are not sure if we were still in San Blas or the nearby village of Matanchen, however we did negotiate a boat ride for considerably less than that asking price. Generally, the fee is $400 - $500 pesos to rent the boat for up to 6 people. The Dueck-Guy duo were not prepared to spend this kind of cash and kept pressing on the boat captain until the price was within our reach ($300 pesos). We think he got in a bit of trouble from the tour company for agreeing to take us at such a low price. Hopefully, he still has his job!
 
La Tovara is a national park that is comprised of a massive mangrove forest within a federally-protected nature preserve. The only way to access the area is to hire one of the small boats that take you up and through the winding canals within the forest. We can best describe La Tovara as a flooded tropical forest that is famous for an abundance of migratory birds, wild flora and fauna from forest and the sea, tropical fish, flowering vines, iguanas, sea and land turtles and best of all crocodiles! Interestingly we kept seeing mounds of mud in the trees that resembled large wasp nests which set in a bit of fear for our lives, however the guide quickly squashed our silly notions and explained that we were looking at termite nests and not to fear. Phew!
 
There have been several movies filmed in this place and there are still platform palapas set up in certain areas that were once used for the filming crew. At the end of the turn around point in the tour, the boat actually docked and let us off to look around. Just before docking we passed by a crocodile as long as the boat that kicked up quite a splash as it dove fully underwater and took of in a flash. There was an immaculate set up of buildings and restaurants along the shoreline and an odd looking chain link fence. Beyond the fence was crystal clear water with views from the surface to the bed of the stream. The water was filled with various species of turtles and fish, mainly catfish and cichlids. Legend has it that this pool area was built many years ago for a Mayan Princess. This water is still part of the river, however it is also fed by a natural hot spring, which makes it a wonderfully tepid place to swim and the perfect place for a Princess. Unfortunately she never did use it and today it is part of the jungle tour. The chain link fence was later built to keep out the crocodiles and allow visitors to swim freely in the beautiful water. Sometimes those little monsters still make it past the fence, however locals are always on guard to fish them out. Michael spotted a rope swing and could not resist to play around a bit. His first attempt on the swing was feeble as he basically ran to the end of the platform and fell off. The swing actually pulled him backwards and he hit the water upsidedown and in the most awkward position. Thankfully he was alright as he had another 10 or so attempts to perfect his launch and cannonball landing. After playtime, we boarded the boat again and headed back along the winding canals toward home. On the return trip we saw more birds and some rather large crocodiles. It must have been a bit early on the ride up for the wildlife to be out and in plain sight. The entire tour took about 3 hours which still left us with the afternoon to drive on down the road to yet another new place.
 
We reviewed the maps in hand and decided that we would travel to La Laguna Santa Maria Del Oro. The lagoon is in a volcanic crater with steep mountains surrounding it on all sides. The pictures in the guide book looked amazing and we had to get a glimpse of this natural beauty first hand. The drive to La Laguna took us through the rather large town of Tepic, which is the capital of the Mexican state of Nayarit. We were a bit disorientated when we first arrived as Tepic is mostly one way streets and our small pocket map did not clearly label which direction the streets travelled. We persevered and found our way to the Tourist Information Office. Our Mexico guide book suggested that the information office in Tepic was very informative offering numerous free maps and tour books. We must have arrived on an off day, as we did not get the red carpet treatment, but did nab a few local maps to help us get around with a little more ease. It was getting late in the day and we opted not to take yet another self-guided town tour and headed straight for La Laguna. After making a few passes through the quiet village of Santa Maria Del Oro we found the road leading to La Laguna. The small highway winds through lush farmlands before reaching a lookout atop the mountains above the lagoon. The view was spectacular! We were already excited about the potential for hiking around this area, but that would have to wait until the next day. The path from the lookout to the shores of La Laguna was a sketchy 20km drive straight down an exceptionally narrow road filled with twists and turns. Slow and steady we made it to the bottom. There was only one listed campground in the area named Koala Camp. The camp is run by an older man from the UK and we heard he was a wealth of knowledge about the history of La Laguna and the surrounding hiking trails. We were lucky enough to be greeted by him upon our arrival and were given clear directions to the trailhead in anticipation of an early morning hike. The camping was reasonable at $8 USD per night, however in spite of this, we decided to free camp along the bank of the lagoon on federal land for $0 per night. That was a bargain we could not pass up. We rested under the shade of the tree lined shore of the lagoon until the sunset covered the sky with brush strokes of orange and pink. We had a early night getting geared up for some nature activity in the morning.
Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed
Koala Camp

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