Barra de Navidad: Tiempo Tranquilo

27.08.2009 – 30.08.2009

Barra de Navidad: Tiempo Tranquilo

Everything all the way up to checking out and saying “adios” was pleasant at the Hotel del Centro. Didn’t really matter to me what else they do there to keep the doors open. If I’ve ever in Guadalajara on a budget again, I will definitely be heading back there with no reservations about it. Friendly all the way up to the end and again,  and freakishly clean!

Might be finally hitting some kind of flow or easy stride now. Getting out of Guadalajara was a snap. I rode for the first hour or so under storm clouds, but never got rained on and the cuota (toll highway) was a splendid ride on a motorcycle. Easy curves and gorgeous scenery in every direction. 

My only regret is that I didn’t force myself to stop to take photos of the Colima volcano. It was just too overcast at that part of the route and I have a hard time taking images if I don’t think the light is adequate enough. If I had it to do again, I would have stopped anyway and made do. Very lovely and stunning landscape in that area that only gets more dramatic as you descend into the canyon region with high bridges over rugged mountain-flanked rivers.

I wish there’d been places to pull over and get some images of that landscape. But, I think I’m starting to get burned out on being a “tourist” anyway. I simply wanted to enjoy the ride and views without trying to save it for later. I know that’s likely selfish, but after some of the previous days that weren’t quite as pleasant, I wanted to just “be” again… like the state of mind I had in the desert. I wanted to bask in the bountiful beauty surrounding me and focus not so much on photography, but the way the cool wind felt brushing over my body while my eyes were transfixed on a glorious volcano… while my complete attention was at a peak of awareness of the road, the bike, the volcano and the beauty that just kept rushing past me around every soft and easy highway curve.

At one point while in this heightened state of complete awareness, I was passing a pickup truck. There were two young girls riding in the back and one girl looked like she was just singing emphatically and dramatically out loud, into the wind and casting her song toward the volcano we’d both just passed by. We made eye contact and she thrust her thumb way up in the air with approval of me on my motorcycle. She directed her song meant for the volcano toward me and I too nodded back with complete joy and approval.

After you make the last curve that meets the Pacific, the first town you see is the sprawling town of Manzanillo. I wasn’t sure where I’d rest, but this place looked like a small industrial city that really wants to be a tourist beach resort area. From the highway at least, it did not appeal to me at all.

Onward along the coast, the sun was now bathing the asphalt and raising the temperature in my helmet some. Not too uncomfortable yet, but time to start paying attention to what was available along the coast for lodging.

Signage for Barra de Navidad and neighboring Melaque started coming up regularly. I wasn’t tired yet, but I began to ask myself, “what’s your hurry Skip? You don’t have any appointments or anything. Why not just stop, get a room, and just dig your toes into the sand for an afternoon?” It didn’t take long to answer my “self” with a resounding “Yes!” Barra de Navidad it is.

I was certain I’d been here before, but after I’d found a suitable room and walked to the beach, I realized it wasn’t Barra that I’d been to at all. It was Manzanillo. Manzanillo had just grown so much and morphed so radically into an big industrial mess that I no longer even recognized it. I’m sure there are nice places around there, but it definitely wasn’t the quaint town it was when I visited there over ten years ago.

Barra de Navidad is definitely trying to make a similar transformation, but because it’s situated on a narrow peninsula flanked by a lovely cove on one side and a big beautiful bay on the other side, there’s really not enough room for the development to get too far out of control. At least I hope not.

I planned on spending one night here, but realized soon after checking into my hotel room… that the rear tire plug I’d got on the way to Guadalajara was not holding air anymore. My tire was almost flat again. Why can’t I catch a break?! And then I thought, “Gee, I’m being forced to relax an extra day here in this lovely little beach town.” Was the universe sending me a message that I needed to slow down and get myself a little more “tranquilo” for a day or two?

I believe it was.

Across the bay from Barra de Navidad is the town of Melaque. Why these two places are separate and defined as two different towns was a bit of a mystery to me since they’re only about five kilometers apart by road, and nearly blend right into one another by beach. Still, the vibe over in Melaque is remarkably different. Definitely rougher and a bit more of a “Mexican” groove. Not much signage in English and sort of an overall disheveled quality to it. As if it’d been hit by a hurricane a decade ago, and no one had quite got around to completely cleaning it back up… but, in a good and rustic way.

Melaque has a really laid-back and untouristy feeling that was attractive. Maybe it because it’s the off season, but little oddities and that lack of everything being tidy was really a great reminder that I was definitely in Mexico. As I walked around the hazy town I noticed a little tienda and it’s icy-cold cooler full of Coca-Cola. As I attempted to was get away from some of the sticky humidity and bring my afternoon fever down a notch… I noticed a cage full of squirrels playing just outside the door. I’m not sure if they were pets or not, but they were so amusing to watch playing on their spinning wheel… that, I told myself they were.

Everything thing was less expensive on the Melaque side as well. Rooms were cheaper, even my agua de papaya drink was about half the price they wanted in Barra. At the end of the day though, it had to be said that they’re really doing a nice job with the development of Barra and it wasn’t that expensive. I was ready to let down my guard a little about dinero expenditures and just relax a bit until my tire was fixed and ready to blaze on up the coast to Puerto Vallarta.

My favorite place to chill out, get a bite to eat and people watch was a little place called “La Casa de Mi Abuela”. They even had free highspeed wireless and the best service I’ve had in Mexico on this trip. The folks there were so nice and attentive. There was some other fellow there that I think was a local with his dog. They even quickly provided a cool bowl of water for the dog without anyone asking! There food was especially scrumptious.

The folks at my hotel (San Rafael) told me about a Guerro (light skinned person) who had thirty years of experience fixing tires and was open on Sundays. I unpacked my air compressor, aired up my tire enough to get me a few kilometers down the road to his little roadside shack. Not fifteen minutes later, he’d looked at my tire, told me the last guy used the wrong kind of plug meant for sidewalls on car tires, yanked the old plug out and shoved in a fresh new sticky one and had my tire pressure back up to forty-one pounds.

No way! That was just too easy! He did charge me nearly double since it was a Sunday, but it was all of about three dollars U.S. so I really couldn’t complain, especially being a Sunday and all. Plus, he ran back into the shack and brought out his brand new baby boy to show off. I’m not that in to babies or anything, but I have to admit he was actually a really good-looking baby as far as babies go…. certainly worthy of a photo for sure if I’d have thought to bring my camera. Didn’t think I’d see anything to snap on the way to get my tire fixed, but that just goes to show… you never know where you’ll find the sweet shots. Best to take your camera everywhere I suppose. I keep learning that lesson, and then forgetting it again. 

There was another place that looked expensive called “Los Archos” or something like that. Hey, I was splurging and relaxing a bit and decided to have a nice last breakfast meal there. It looked really fancy and all of the prices seemed double what they were anywhere else in town. That means it’s gotta be pretty good right?

Wrong! I understand that the owners of places like this think that all people really go to restaurants for is the atmosphere, but seriously… do they really think people are so stupid that they can’t tell bland food bought in bulk from Sam’s Club, from the real delicious food Mexicans are so well known for? The place had really nice fountains and furniture, but they wouldn’t even give me a glass of water. They insisted that all they had was water by the bottle that I would have to pay triple for. No thanks! That whole mentality is really insulting if you ask me. Too bad it was Monday when “La Casa de Mi Abuela” is closed or I would've got up and left.

None of that was enough to harsh my mellow though, and there was a curvy coastal road with my name on it. I'd heard of a very beautiful bay called Tenacitita along the way from Barra de Navidad to Puerto Vallarta that I wanted to stop off and grab a few snaps of for future reference should I ever travel this coast again.

On my first motorcycle journey in Mexico in 2005, I didn’t plan my time right and ended up having to spend a night on the bay of Chamela. It’s a small fishing village with no hotels and simple palapas to eat fresh seafood. The people there treated me as one of their own and let me hang my hammock in their beach-side restaurant for the night. They wouldn’t take any money either, even though I'd insisted. They just said that I could eat there the next day if I wanted, but didn’t even have to do that. “Mi casa es su casa!” (my house is your house).

Can you imagine? A complete stranger from another country pulls off the highway and around some pretty lagoons to a palapa on the beach and is welcomed without any suspicion? And treated like a family member? I wonder if there were ever a time in history where this sort of respect for your fellow man was the norm? Must have been paradise compared to this day and age where everyone is frightened of their neighbors and wield guns to protect their precious "stuff" and "ideals". How sad that it has to be this way as borders separate us from our brothers and sisters, and who are glared upon with distrust and feared as “terrorists”.

Chamela is on the way. I think I’ll see if my friends are still there fishing that bay and order myself a nice plate of octopus or whatever they’ve caught this morning. Meals prepared by folks with good hearts always taste so much better to me for some reason.