G A N Z E E R . T O D A Y


Back in Houston from Puerto Vallarta where I got to see humpback whales for the first time.

The thrill of being put into perspective, of realizing how small and insignificant we are, will never ever get old. I've experienced it only a handful of times in my life; one memorable time was in Baharia Oasis in Egypt's Western Desert, where the vastness of desert extends as far as the eye can see. Fish and seashell fossils are clearly visible throughout the various rock formations and there's the occasional “whale” carcass littering the sea of sand (it was all underwater some 7 million years ago)

And now this, within proximity to Mexico's West Coast, realizing that you and the boat you're on—along with all the other boats at sea—are just a bunch of croutons floating atop a big soup of whale and other sea life.

Because the habitat of humpback whales? Well it's kind of the entire Pacific Ocean, all of it. They migrate when seasons change (which climate change will no doubt really fuck up), and clearly things like borders and territorial waters and all the artificial constructs we puny humans have set up mean absolutely nothing to them.

One way for whale-watchers to spot humpback whales is to look for their “foot prints”. Essentially, big blotches on the surface of the ocean that have a smooth mirror-like look about them (pictured above), a kind of imprint left by the whale on the surface just by how its body affects the currents underneath, even at a distance. Seeing these things form and disappear is weird and alien-like, because on first sight it looks like some weird glitch in the laws of physics.

One of the things I didn't expect was how graceful these magnificent beings would be. They swim so eleganty, synchronize their movements and even their breathing—which unlike us, is very deliberate. They breath with absolute awareness apparently, wherein active decision-making is involved with every breath they take.

At one point there was a school of dolphins swimming alongside a group of whales, and just seeing these two different species—very different in size and mannerisms—getting along together and cohabiting the seas together was such a beautiful sight.

We also spotted a big grumpy sea-turtle, and several Mobula Rays (I think) leaping through the ocean surface into the air joyfully flapping their wing-like fins before diving back in. Seeing these things for the first time is like discovering whole new worlds. I failed to take pictures of... well, most things, because at a certain point I realized I was witnessing everything through my viewfinder, keeping me from truly experiencing it in the real. So I just put my camera down, turned it off, and decided to take it all in. Nothing in the way between me and the experience.

Which is exactly how I'd like to live my 2020's; more appreciation for the beauty of the world, for the miracle of being alive, for the air we take into our lungs for sustenance without thinking twice about it; the same air we share with the birds and trees and rats and cows and whales and all form of life on this incredible planet we all share.

Here's to a decade of being kind, loving, grateful, and mindful. Happy new year.

#Travel #PuertoVallarta #Mexico

“I remember back when 10,000 pesos got you a house with a gardener!” exclaims the elderly Canadian, 10,000 pesos being the equivalent of 527.55 U.S. dollars. She also remembers when it rained for two weeks straight in 1998. I imagine her life hasn't been all that eventful since.

“Yeah, you can't do that now. I pay 11,000 pesos for a two bedroom.” responds her friend. That's still just 580 U.S.

Five hundred and eighty dollars a month for a place that is a stone's throw away from the beach is not something you can get anywhere in North America. I'm not so sure what these ladies are complaining about.

Puerto Vallarta is an idealic fishing village turned tourist hub on the Pacific Ocean side of Mexico. Even with the influx of white Anglo tourists—especially during the months of December and January where the temperature hovers around an unbeatable 30C/86F—it still hasn't lost its small town charm (unless you spend all your time in the “Zona Romantica”, which is just big hotels and stores for white-tourists). Roads are narrow, paved with uneven stones, houses are small two-three story structures, often adorned with intricate metal gates and a color accent or two. The “central” part of town is designed for walking where you can do everything on foot: go to the marketplace, hit the beach, sit at a cafe or bar, get a haircut, go clubbing, check out an art gallery, try out a different restaurant everyday, go to the bank, buy clothes, you name it. Pelicans hover in flocks, iguanas chill on rocks, and the locals go about their day with the cheerful nonchalance of beachside living. Seafood and fruit are always very fresh and available in great abundance. As are the cocktails. At very affordable prices too (at least by U.S. standards).

I reckon it would be a great place to come for a writing sabbatical (or any kind of “workation” that can be performed remotely).

The best way to do it to have access to tourist/foreign amenities without being too isolated from the town's authentic vibes is to get a little rental somewhere between Calle Allende and Isla Cuale, or within proximity to Mercado Emiliano Zapata (especially if you plan on being in town for a month or more and will need to buy groceries often). Stay away from restaurants that are awfully touristic; food is never as good and prices are usually significantly higher. La Isla de Marin's Seafood is absolutely slamming, as is Balam Balam.

As a rule, if you see too many gringos? Just keep walking (which I understand goes against the nature of many a gringo).

Puerto Vallarta

#Travel #PuertoVallarta #Mexico