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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Puerto Vallarta to Zihuatanejo, Mexico

During our last day in Puerto Vallarta we did a radio interview with UDG 104.3 that lasted nearly one hour. It was a really fun interview, filled with extremely creative questions. We are still working on rounding up a copy.

The same day as our radio interview we conducted 3 presentations at the American School for the 8th, 9th, and 10th graders. We spent time informing them of the pending mine and possible devastation and sharing stories and photos from our trip. As we walked through the schoolyard to leave the campus a group of 5-10 year olds surrounded us. These kids know how to ask questions. At one point a girl came up to me, tugged on my shirt and asked me if our bikes would take us to different planets. Most people ask very common questions so it was fun to see how simplistic yet imaginative these kids could get.

After taking a solid week off the bike to gorge ourselves at the Aureguy’s house it was a bit painful to get back on our leather saddles and pedal up the massive mountain that looms just south of downtown Puerto Vallarta.

Craig made a last minute decision to borrow a friend’s bass boat and meet us on Lago Cajon with his son Mateo for some large mouth bass fishing. After a 100km uphill battle we were able to get out fishing on the lake the first evening. Within about a half hour Parker hooked into a sizable fish and our expectations for the trip escalated. We changed locations and Meteo (who has one bad ass casting arm) hooked into a monster. The fish exploded on his chartrues plastic worm as he dragged it across the surface and I thought for sure the fish would pull him into the water. To our amazement, Mateo hoisted this thing into the boat. From the photos it is pretty obvious this fish is about half the size of the little man.

That night we camped on the shores of the lake and at one point Craig asked Mateo, “Would you rather be at home, in your own bed, listening to your mom read stories?” “Yes! Duh,” Mateo said matter of factly. Some nights when we are sleeping in roadside ditches I feel the same way.

The next day was much less eventful and despite Craig’s determination to locate fish we only hooked into a couple. That afternoon we parted ways with Craig and Mateo, hit the road, and ended up in a camp spot that had me wishing I was listening to Barbara read some Roald Dahl.

The road conditions vary drastically along the route from Puerto Vallarta to Zihuatanejo. At times we found ourselves screaming along at 18mph on a flat highway with a sizable shoulder, at others we were winding up 16% grade climbs on small mountain roads with no white lines or room for bikes. Baja required a quick, defensive cycling, learning curve and since then we have worked to adapt to the roads of Mexico but we often find ourselves daydreaming about the solitude we found up north. I have a feeling we have more solitude to come and then we’ll be yearning for some of the craziness we’ve found here.

On a particularly hilly day we found ourselves at the top of a very impressive lookout with a picture perfect view of our campspot at Playa Las Brisas. We found complete solitude on this white sand beach and would highly recommend this beach to fellow travelers. From this beach our, next notable destination was the infamous Maruata.

Christian, the crazy German cyclist, who we rode with in British Columbia and who at the time of our meeting had been traveling for almost 2 years on his bike, had recommended Maruata as one of his favorite beaches of the entire trip. This beach has been highlighted on our map for months. Upon our arrival, it was very obvious why Christian fell in love with the place and ended up staying for 2 weeks. It has an extremely laid back vibe. If you order food it might show up in an hour of maybe not at all. We were stunned by the fact that many of the locals display little to no interest in making money. We both agreed that we were glad to be on a time schedule to get to Zihuatanejo because we could easily end up like the leather skinned gringos who landed on Maruata 30 years ago in their VW buses and never left.

From Maruata we made our way to Barra de Nexpa. This is another beach, which wore a circle on our map. This is a place we could spend a few days. For a sleepy surf town, this beach appears to see a fair number of Mexican and foreign tourists. When we arrived a group that spotted us out of the window of their VW bus a day prior immediately approached us. That night we shared a dinner of fresh fish, shrimp ceviche, and had some great conversation. The group consisted of Aussie’s, Mexicans, Americans (the United States kind), Canadians, an El Salvadorian and one very angelic baby.

Zihuatanejo has exceeded our expectations. Despite the fact that it has become somewhat of a tourist town it still maintains an old town feel. There are plenty of excellent cheap places to eat, everything is within walking distance, it has a fantastic open-air market and there is excellent big game fishing just a few miles off shore.
On Christmas day, Ed Kunze, a local fly fishing legend, donated his time and resources to getting us out on the water for an incredible fly fishing trip. This marks the first occasion that either of us have targeted sailfish on the fly. Ed is a leading proponent on the Guerrero coast for sportfish preservation and the only fly fishing guide that we have been able to track down for the last 3000 miles. Ed has spent nearly 14 years in the area perfecting his techniques for both roosters and sailfish. He fully outfitted us with top of the line gear and put us onto some amazing water.

On an uncharacteristically slow day with Ed we were able to raise one sailfish to the teasers, which we were not able to bring within casting distance of the boat. Zihuatanejo was rated as the 2nd best place in the world to catch sailfish and I am sure that if we spent another day with Ed we would have more opportunities to hook one of these awesome creatures. Ed went above and beyond the generosity of any guides that we have fished with to date. If you want to find sailfish on the fly in Zihuatanejo you have to contact Ed.

Months ago I received an email from Melinda Peterson asking me where we would be over Christmas. She mentioned that the Peterson family was looking for a great place to spend the holidays. After not speaking with her for another month or so, I got an email letting me know that they would in fact be staying in Zihua during the exact same time as us.

John, Marry, Betty and Melinda treated us to an unbelievable Christmas dinner, showered us with gifts and then to top it all off they invited us out on a charter fishing trip. The three of us showed up at the docks at 6:15 and were excited to get back on the water after our day with Ed Kunze. The boat was everything you would expect from a top end charter trip. Swivel chairs, shinny white decks and lounge chairs, premium rod / reel setups, and a cooler full of Corona. This is much different from most of the fishing we have done on the trip but so fun in it’s own right. We hooked up on some nice Bonita almost instantly and for the next hour, these missile shaped fish kept all of us occupied as we searched for something bigger.

I thought it was odd when I looked over and saw Betty curling up on the lounge chair. Next thing we knew a tidal wave of seasickness hit Betty, Melinda, and John. As the sea swells increased it became obvious that their situations were not going to improve and we made the decision to head back to the dock. If anyone reading has been seasick you can appreciate this decision.

When we got to the dock, the Peterson’s placed their feet onto solid ground and the captain asked if we would like to go back out for a couple more hours. Of course we accepted. We restocked the cooler and headed back out to sea. Just as we all began to dose on the lounge sofas, the sound of a screaming drag ripped me to my feet. I jumped onto the rod and next thing I knew I was sitting in a swivel fighting chair battling a 100+ pound sailfish.

What a phenomenally amazing animal. This fish performed aerial acrobatics for us and put up one hell of a fight until I finally got it to the boat. The next thing that happened is something that I wish I did not have to report on but something I feel is absolutely worth mentioning. As soon as this fish was brought up to the side of the boat the deck hand repeatedly clubbed it over the head until the fish ceased to live. Anyone that knows Parker and I know that we are strictly catch and release fisherman especially when it comes to big game species. This was unbelievably painful to witness and something that we both thought was against regulations in Ithaca / Zihuatanejo waters. These are magnificent animals that have seen a dramatic decline in numbers in the last 15 to 20 years as a result of a number of factors (one being over fishing / long lining). When we questioned the captain about his decision to kill the fish he told us that it had been hooked deep in the gills and would not have recovered. We are not so convinced. Either way, the fish was sold as soon as we got to the dock. Had we known, we both would have fronted whatever cash the fish would have brought at market. This experience left us with a bitter taste and unfortunately this is something that happens every single day in Pacific waters. Our fly fishing guide, Ed Kunze, is doing his best to educate local fisherman about resource conservation and he estimates that kill numbers of sailfish have declined nearly 80% in the last 10 years. This is a great step in the right direction. The photographs highlight the brilliance of this gorgeous fish and we’ve included them to help our followers appreciate and understand our concerns.

On a lighter note, as I prepare this blog we are preparing for our big New Years eve out on the town. Truthfully, it will likely be mellow but who knows. We would like to again give special thanks to Ed Kunze, the whole Peterson family (best Christmas ever), our parents, Maximo (the Banana Boat King of Zihuatanejo), the Aureguy’s!!!! and our friends for all their support. Happy New Year!
If you would like to see photos from this segment of the trip click here:


Stephen Mull said...

We're still reading. Feed the animals.

Mallorca boat hire said...

This looks great, I sooo need to try this soon! Thanks!

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