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Monday, 28 January 2013

Puerto Vallarta 1980

The first time I went to Mexico was in 1980, about 33 years ago. The furthest south I had ever been was to Florida a year or two earlier. I chose Puerto Vallarta partly because I had seen the movie The Night of the Iguana with Richard Burton and read the stories about Liz and Dick in Mexico in the newspapers and it seemed like an exotic place. The movie was made in 1964 and by 1980 the town had grown a lot but it still had the feel of a undeveloped tourist destination.
There weren’t a lot of high rise hotels back then. The biggest hotel was probably the Holiday Inn at ten or twelve stories. It was a common sight to see the locals washing their laundry in the creek by the “new” bridge. Donkeys loaded with firewood could be seen being led through the streets. On Sundays the local men would get their shoes shined and take their families for a stroll along the waterfront after mass.
Shoe shine guys
City square with Catholic church
I made my trip plan to Mexico with a Vancouver travel agent. I probably went about it a little differently than most others. I wanted to drive down to San Diego and catch a plane to Mexico from there. This is pretty well what I ended up doing except that I caught a plane from San Diego to Los Angeles before catching another one to Mexico.
I left Vancouver around the third week in January. I was driving a chocolate coloured Camaro at the time.  It took me about 2 days to get to San Diego. Mostly I travelled on the coast highway, route 101, through Oregon and California. I ended up at a giant motel in La Jolla that had over 100 units.
I can’t recall much about the road trip south other than seeing the waves crashing against the shore. I know I heard the Spinners singing Working My Way Back To You and the Pina Colada song a number of times on the car radio. I also got a speeding ticket in Northern California.
Speeding ticket from California
The plane landed in Puerto Vallarta and a young guy who worked at the hotel I would be staying at, the Playa Los Arcos, greeted us. On the way into town he told us the dos and don’ts about vacationing in the tropics. When we got to our hotel I was a bit surprised that the front desk was open to the elements and that the building didn’t have glassed windows but had shutters. The hotel was only three stories high. It had a plain looking swimming pool and a gate that led to the beach.
Playa Los Arcos
Playa Los Arcos swimming pool
In the week that I spent at the hotel the weather wasn’t that great with only a few bright sunny days. I remember seeing stewardesses stretched out on the beach chairs trying to get a few of the evasive rays of sun. The Hotel was not an all-inclusive and I had to fend for myself as far as eating was concerned. I ended up with a case of the Mexican trots or whatever they called it and spent a fair amount of time reading in the bathroom. Bottled water wasn’t as prevalent at it is today.
Crappy weather day
I read about a book a day that week. One was an abridged history of Mexico. Man those people revolted a lot. Sometimes I would be up in the middle of the night reading. Up on the ceiling there appeared to be things that looked like wads of gum. It took me a bit of time to realize that those wads of gum moved about. I never did figure out what they were. I almost freaked out when I saw a gecko disappear behind a heavy mirror on the wall in my room.
I checked out a local nightclub called the “City Dump”. There was a short line-up to get into the place and they seemed to let the locals in and any single women. After waiting for about an hour I was finally allowed in the joint and was surprised to find the place wasn’t crowded at all. I figured it out that they had some kind of deal going on where the locals had a better shot at the single “Gringo” women if the Gringo men were left waiting outside.
I ran into the local guy who had given us the lowdown when we arrived at the airport. Not knowing a soul in town, I offered to buy him a drink when he recognized me. He ordered a Courvoisier cognac. He later told me he spent his nights sleeping on whatever rooftop he could find. He didn’t have 2 pesos to rub together but apparently had discerning tastes in alcohol when some tourist was buying.
Air cooled VW
Back then they had the parachute rides off of the nearby pier. It didn’t seem like the way I wanted to end my life so I just watched. The beaches were always crowded and you could drag a lawn chair from the hotel pool down to the beach if you cared to.
I hung out with an American gal at the beach for a day or so but that never went anywhere. I remember another American gal who was into yoga. She did a kind of handstand thing not knowing that part of her pubic hair was sticking out. There really wasn’t any acceptable way of letting her know.
I had brought my tennis racket with me but never noticed any courts around. One day I asked a taxi driver if he knew where there were any tennis courts. “Sure” he said. He took me for a long drive out in the jungle and when we got to our destination the place was padlocked. It was a complete waste of time and cab fare.
I watched the Super Bowl in a bar with a number of Canadians and Americans. The TV picture would disappear from time to time. The windows in the joint were covered up to make it easier to be able to focus on the TV. The Piitsburgh Steelers beat the L.A. Rams 31-19.
I checked out the local popular watering hole and hang out, Carlos O’Brian’s. Beer in a pail of ice. What a concept! I never could figure out why Corona is such a popular beer. It seems like it is pretty watered down stuff. Maybe it is the lime wedge?
Carlos O'Brian's
I got to the point, what with spending so much time in the bathroom, that I started to buy canned juices and packaged cookies. I didn’t have any faith left in chowing on the local cuisine. The funny thing is, out of all of the trips I have taken to Mexico, this was the only one where I had back end problems.
When the week was over I caught a taxi out to the airport. I was standing on the tarmac with the other tourists when a well-armed federale approached us. He asked me “You pack a knife?” I thought about saying “Not today Jose.” but thought the better of it.
I got back to La Jolla, California at about 11 p.m. in the evening. My taxi driver was a flustered British guy. When we got to my motel where my car had been stored we discovered that the place was shut down for the night and that there wasn’t anybody around except a security guard who was no help. To top it off there was a Shriners convention going on and it was very hard to find a motel room anywhere. We drove from one place to another without any luck. It was about 3 a.m. before I finally found a vacant room.
The next day, after recovering my car, I decided to check out the San Diego Zoo. I must have been sleep deprived because almost all of the photos I took of the animals were out of whack. I also went to Disneyland in Anaheim.
It wasn’t a perfect trip by any stretch of the imagination but it was interesting never the less. In few days we will be going to the Mayan Riviera for a week. It will be our 5th and Linda’s 6th trip to Mexico in the past 6 years. Linda went to Cabo twice last year. Apparently that first trip, some 33 years ago, didn’t scare me off.


1 comment:

  1. I love looking at all your old photos... Although I was a kid the first time we went to Vallarta about 1978,It was a love affair that lasted along time! We used to stay at los arcos!