Tales of Retirement in Paradise
|Chapter 21 - Cruising The Coast Of Happiness|
Polly G. Vicars
We passed the charming and virtually untouched village of Chamela, the winter home to many gringos - especially those who love to fish, We left the arid desert area behind, and once again skirted the jungle. We stopped to chat with the friendly folks at Punta Perla and then motored as close to shore as we could to get a good look at Las Alamandas, a strategically positioned resort built by the granddaughter of the founder of Manzanillo's internationally renowned Las Hadas. Here, set in 1500 acres of tropical terrain, Isabel Goldsmith built an exclusive and expensive resort of villas offering all the amenities one would expect from the Las Hadas heir. (Perhaps, I'll add a week-end there to my list of things to do.)
From Chamela on, the sport fish were taunting us to stop and catch them. Since we had made excellent time, less than five and a half hours to Chamela, it was an easy decision to stop and bait up. We had brought no carnada (bait) thinking we would get it after reaching Careyes, so we rigged up with lures - rapalas, spoons and skirts. It was heaven! Giant dorado hit and hit, and we hauled in some beauties. El Capitán expertly filleted them for a late supper, and we resumed our journey.
It wasn't far to our destination, Hotel Bel-Air, Costa Careyes. We passed stunningly situated villas, a rainbow of pastel colors, architecturally blended into the cliffs and perched high above the sea. We passed the very popular Club Med with its bevy of beauties - both young people and sail boats bobbing and playing in the, as advertised, "azure waters." We spied our hacienda-style hotel surrounding a serpentine pool and nestled into the palm tree dotted beach.
We disembarked on the beach, dressed in bathing suits, carrying back packs with our few clothes, Rizo bags filled with dorado fillets (Gutierrez Rizo is the family owned grocery/department store where most locals and gringos shop. Their plastic bags are the Bloomingdale's "brown bag" of Vallarta) and our most prized rod and Gold International 80W reel.
We stood on the beach of this resort about which Wesley Westbrook and Michael Hirsch have written, "Monte Carlo and St. Barts are all very well, but Careyes is where the wealthy and celebrated hie when they want to be offstage for a while... The world which awaits guests at Bel-Air Costa Careyes is one of sumptuous luxury and soothing serenity... Robert de Niro and George Hamilton are among the more recognizable faces that may be found." The late John Huston praised Careyes as "the perfect marriage of the best of Italy and México."
We weren't sure exactly how our motley crew would be greeted or treated, but we needn't have worried. Before we ever hit the paved walkway, one of the guests bounded out to greet us with the words, "I admire anyone who carries his International 80W with him," which led to some wonderful hours with him and his bride. He was a publisher from New York who was an avid fisherman. We swapped fishing stories and he encouraged my fledgling writing career.
The expert and genial staff acted as if we were an everyday occurrence, but I'll lay you two-to-one we are the only guests who have ever arrived from Puerto Vallarta, or for that matter from anywhere, in a fishing panga! They showed us to our condominium which had two bedrooms, two baths, living room with balcony overlooking the pool and the sea, and a kitchen totally barren of pot, pan, spoon or fork. Seems rich folks don't use such things.
Our request for cups, saucers, bowls, glasses and silverware was taken in stride by the staff with nary a snide look nor a snooty remark. We needed the utensils to make use of the cereal and fruit, coffee and coffee pot we had brought. Being experienced fishermen we knew we needed our sustenance before our very early morning departures - besides, Husband won't budge without his breakfast.
The gourmet chef was especially gracious about preparing dinner with the dorado fillets cooked according to our orders and the orders of the other guests with whom we shared the catch. The spacious seaside dining room was both elegant and welcoming, and the four of us, dressed in our best (shorts, shirts, and shoes), dined and wined right along side the likes of movie mogul Sherry Lansing and her entourage; the New York publisher and his bride; and dozens of unidentified, but obviously monied and influential guests who seemed to love hearing the stories of our little adventure.
During our years together, El Chico and El Capitán have dined with us often, though maybe not quite so elegantly as this, and their quiet dignity has always served them well in any situation, including this one. The seemingly innate warmth that emanates from the Vallartenses we know makes it virtually impossible for strangers - no matter their station or wealth - to resist them. No one ever ate a Thanksgiving dinner in circumstances more filled with goodwill and friendship than we did that night!
We spent the next three days exploring the coast and the waters between Careyes and Barra de Navidad. El Capitán's careful planning really paid off as there was no gasoline to be had at any of the little villages along the shore; you had to drive inland about twenty miles to fill your garrafones, so we made good use of our spare gasoline. (The hotel promised to see that we got gasoline for the return trip.)
Obviously there are not many fishermen in the area as there was no place to buy carnada either! Since we had no net to catch our own, we did all of our fishing with artificial lures. The fish were apparently just waiting for us to catch them with whatever bait we had as we scored record catches every day!
Catching our limit early each day left us lots of time to explore. We found little coves where the water was pure aquamarine and clear enough to see the schools of brightly colored fish swimming below without the need for a mask. We snorkeled, we combed the deserted and almost pristine beaches, we talked with the locals in the coastal pueblos, and we saw the "big ones" - sailfish and marlin - jumping and taunting us almost as if they knew we were not fishing with anything in which they were interested!
Each night we returned to our luxurious surroundings to share our catch and our stories with the other guests. We sipped cocktails, nestled into the cushion-filled lounges on the beach while the famed Pacific sunset strutted its stuff. We dined, sometimes on our fish, sometimes on the specialty of the night, in candle-lit elegance and we reveled in the shared experiences with our congenial friends, old and new.
All too soon it was time to start home. The hotel took our crew into town to fill the garrafones and get the needed ice to preserve the bountiful catch we would share with our Vallarta friends. Rising with the sun Sunday morning, the four of us started the journey north to Vallarta. We were a relaxed and jovial group who felt like old salts; we knew the waters and felt secure with this knowledge. We did not anticipate the surprise Mother Nature had in store for us.
It started as a calm and uneventful trip home. We motored along noting sights we had missed on the way down. Sea life surrounded us, and the beautiful waters sparkled and shimmered in the bright sunlight. About an hour before we thought we should be at Cabo Corrientes, the wind began to pick up, and the currents began to swirl. The sea became choppy; then choppiness turned to giant swells. El Viejo was tossed and tumbled by the big sea! With everything battened securely, we hunkered down to weather the storm. El Capitán and El Chico proved up to the challenge and steered us through the stormy seas until, finally, El Faro was in sight. We knew the calm waters of the bay were just on the other side, and we each breathed our individual thanksgiving for having reached this safe haven.
We pulled into to the anchorage at El Coral to recoup, have a leisurely lunch in the calm waters, and rehash our exciting trip. We bestowed congratulations on each other for having made safe passage with everyone coming through in the pinch. Laughing about the cavalier way we had started the return trip, we acknowledged the actual height of the waves and the inklings of fear that had trickled through our blood. Each of us regaled the others with tales of the fish we caught and the fun we had.
Then we started the motors for the last hour of Thanksgiving 1994's Cruise-up-the-Costa-Alegre, and as we cruised we began to plan our return trip for Thanksgiving 1995!
(No updating needed here. It was a fabulous trip, but one we never did repeat. But who knows? Thanksgiving is coming up!)
Polly G. Vicars and her husband of 57 years, Hubert (a.k.a. "Husband") retired to Puerto Vallarta in 1988 and soon became active members of several charitable organizations. Polly is the author of "Tales of Retirement in Paradise: Life in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico" [a sell-out!] and "More Tales of Retirement in Puerto Vallarta and Around the World." Proceeds from the sale of her books go to the America-Mexico Foundation, a scholarship foundation that is their passion.
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