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Tacos on the windshield

Me cleaning taco sauce off the windshield of the Blue Whale. Photo by David Lansing.

I dropped Jeff off at the airport today. As I was driving back to Bucerias, I thought about the last time Jeff was down here and I somehow convinced him to do a roadtrip with me from Puerto Vallarta to Los Angeles. What I remember is that the night before we left, Jeff suddenly came down with an intestinal problem and he wasn’t able to eat the carne asada we’d ordered at a restaurant in Bucerias. Not wanting to waste it, he’d asked the waiter to wrap it up in aluminum foil.

The next day, we stop to get gas before heading off into the jungle. While I’m paying for the gas, Jeff gets the foil-wrapped steak tacos from dinner and puts them on the windshield, held down by the wipers.

Me: What the hell are you doing?

Jeff: Heating up my tacos. It’s a hundred degrees outside. They’ll be warm by the time we get to Mazatlan.

Me: The windshield wipers aren’t going to hold them! Those babies will go flying off in two minutes.

Jeff: They’ll be fine. Just go slow.

So off we went through the jungle. With two big aluminum foil packets of tacos underneath the windshield wipers. At one point the tacos de parabrisas started to creep up the windshield but I found that if I kept my speed around 40-45, they were okay. Although some of the sauce leaked, making salsa rivulets down the hood of the Blue Whale.

Just before we got to Mazatlan, Jeff hopped out and grabbed the tacos. They were a little soggy but heated through. We had them with a couple of orange Fantas we bought at an Oxxo.

The next morning when we gassed up before leaving Mazatlan, Jeff went into the quickie mart and got two $.69 hot dogs. He stuck them under the windshield wipers where they stayed as we crossed the Sonoran desert. I think this may become a regular thing with him.

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Turtles and a sunset in Custodio

The sun sets over Custodio in Mexico. Photo by David Lansing.

Jeff and I planned to drive up to Custodio mid-day to visit the Fletchers but by the time we actually got out of Bucerias the day was almost gone. We took the stone steps down to the water’s edge and crossed the estuary in waist-high water to Playa Tortugas. At the turtle preserve, they were preparing to release a thousand or so baby turtles. We watched as one of the workers dug deep holes in the sand looking for any turtle eggs that hadn’t hatched yet. The man in charge said they would release the turtles about half an hour before sunset and we could help, if we wanted, but we would have to pay. The amount of money he wanted wasn’t a lot, but the request irritated Chris. He has happily donated hundreds of dollars to the turtle facility and I think he was annoyed that now he was being asked to chip in more just to watch them release the turtles tonight.

The three of us—Chris, Malin, and I—have done the turtle release several times and none of us were really interested in waiting around for another half hour to watch it again, so instead, we walked further down the beach, passing by several dead fish washed up just beyond the tide line that were being slowly picked at by vultures. The vultures didn’t seem particularly hungry. One or two would rip a gash in the stomachs of the fish and pull out the guts to eat but there was no feeding frenzy going on. It was all very civilized, considering they were vultures.

By the time we got back to the estuary, the sun was very low in the sky. The tide was a little higher and it was more difficult crossing over. If the water got above your waist, it would pull you out towards the ocean or inwards towards the estuary, depending on which current you were in. Blue crabs, the size of abalone shells, skittered about at our feet. Every once in awhile you’d nick one and you could feel their pincers lashing out.

When we got back to Casa del Mar, there was just barely enough time to shower off the salt water and make a pitcher of margaritas. We sat out under the palapa, all of us rather quiet, watching the sun as it dropped like an orange balloon into the ocean. The day was done.

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Chris cleaning the sierras that Marta will turn into ceviche. Photo by David Lansing.

In the morning, we went fishing. The weather was fine—clear, no wind, and no surf. Diego was down at the beach waiting for us. We put all our gear in his panga and helped him push off into the surf, jumping into the boat once the water got up to our knees. It is not easy for three men to fish in a panga. What you have to do is let one line out directly behind the engine and then let the other lines out on either side of the boat and hope the lines don’t get fouled. They will, inevitably, get fouled but you hope it doesn’t happen too many times.

We had not been fishing for more than fifteen minutes before we caught a good-sized fish they call a toro. It looks like a tuna but is smaller and not very good tasting unless you smoke it. Each of us caught several fish in the first two hours and then we trolled for a bit out over the reef enjoying the clear, calm water and watching the dolphins jump but not catching any more fish. Finally, Chris turned to me and asked if I was ready to go back. I said we should give it another fifteen minutes and suggested a bet: If one of us caught a fish in the next fifteen minutes, the other would have to swim back to shore.

So we fished and not five minutes later, Chris hooked into a good-sized fish that we thought might be a jack crevalle. When one person hooks a fish the boat etiquette is that the others reel their lines in so the fish won’t get fouled while coming to the boat. So Pete and I started quickly reeling in our lines.

“Lansing, you’re going swimming!” Chris said as he fought the fish. His pole was bent almost in half and the fish was large enough that it was still taking line out.

I had almost gotten my line all the way in when my pole suddenly bent in half. I had a strike as well. Because my line was so close to the boat it took me only a few minutes to reel my fish in. It was a fine looking sierra, an excellent fish for ceviche. We already had a few sierra in the boat but this was the biggest yet. Meanwhile, Chris was still trying to bring his fish in. When he finally got it to the boat, it was a very large toro.

So, I said, are you ready to swim to shore?

What do you mean? he said. I hooked up before you did.

Yes, but I got my fish into the boat first. That means you’re the one who has to swim to shore.

And he would have done it, too. We were at least a mile off-shore and it would have been a very difficult swim and there are sharks in this area (in fact, Diego told us that he had caught a large shark night fishing last night) but we agreed that the bet had been a tie—he caught his fish first but I got mine in to the boat before his—and so neither one of us had to swim to shore. Which was probably just as well. I’m not sure either one of us would have made it.

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San Blas fish stall

This morning Chris, Pete, and I got up a little after six. We were going fishing. The day before, Chris had arranged with Diego, a fisherman who lives at the bottom of the hill in Plantanitos, to take us out in his panga. The dorado are running but to get to where they are you have to go far out to the islands, and if you ever saw Diego’s small outboard motor, which he covers in a dirty old T-shirt, you’d think twice about going an hour or more offshore in his boat. Instead, we would just fish along the coastal reefs where the local fisherman go.

So just before seven, we were all loaded up with rods and reels and tackle boxes along with some water and snacks for the morning, but when we got to the gate, the guard told us that Diego had come up earlier in the morning to let us know there would be no fishing. The winds, which had been blowing for the last couple of days, were making the surf too big and he was afraid his panga would get swamped pushing off from the beach.

This was too bad. I had really been looking forward to going out in Diego’s panga and doing some fishing. You get out in the deep blue water where the dolphins break the surface all around you and the water is so clear you can look down and see the large schools of jack crevalle or toro swimming beneath you and you tend to forget that you have a house in Bucerias that has some major plumbing and electrical problems.

Well, I said as we drove back to the house, perhaps we can go out tomorrow. Tomorrow, Chris said, we were planning on going to La Tovara in San Blas to look at the birds and the crocodiles. We can go fishing on Saturday.

Which is a bit of a conundrum for me since I was planning on heading back to Bucerias this afternoon after fishing. I would like to go fishing Saturday but I do not want to go to San Blas and it seems silly to sit around the Fletcher’s house tomorrow while they are all doing the jungle cruise in San Blas. So now I will have to decide whether to drive home tomorrow and see what sort of new horrors await me in Bucerias or stay here for a couple more days.

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Chris and Malin Fletcher at the bat caves. Photo by David Lansing.

It’s always a full house at the Fletcher’s home in Custodio. At the moment, besides me, they’re also hosting several friends from Southern California and Chris’s cousin, Wendy, an artist who lives in Puerto Vallarta, who was here with a large posse of friends, just left this morning. In addition, Chris’s brother, Dave, and his wife are in residence next door along with several of their friends. So it’s a large group.

And the Fletchers aren’t the sort of people who like to just lie around the pool (although they do that as well). Yesterday when I arrived, everyone was getting massages by a woman who came up from Sayulita just for that purpose, and then later there was paddle-boarding up the estuary followed by a twilight walk along Turtle Beach. This morning there was a power walk into Platanitos before breakfast followed by a yoga session led by a woman from Alaska and then water aerobics. Not for me, of course. I mainly just hung around the pool and watched the pelicans fly by along the coast.

Late in the day, Chris announced that we were all going to the bat cave. You go there just before sunset and, he said, thousands of bats come out of the caves in the cliffs and chase the clouds of mosquitos that come out at night. So plans were made. Dave Fletcher made pitchers of margaritas. Chris made up some gin and tonics. Everyone doused themselves in bug spray and piled in to various SUVs and we drove a short distance through the jungle and then walked along a path that ended up at a bluffside platform about a hundred feet above the ocean. Below us, supposedly, were the bat caves.

We sipped our cocktails. We watched the sky turn purple orange. We complained when one or the other of us was bitten by a mosquito or no-see-um. And we waited. About ten or fifteen minutes after the sun had set, but while there was still light in the sky, the first bat appeared. Flying drunkenly over our heads, chasing bugs. And then a few more joined him. Eventually we saw a dozen or so bats. Some careening within feet of us as they chased down their dinner. A few of the bats almost banged in to Leah who decided she’d had enough. She started walking back to one of the cars. At this point it was getting dark so the rest of us decided to head back as well. Using the beam from a single flashlight to carefully make our way through the vines and overhang of the jungle. We hadn’t exactly seen thousands and thousands of bats. But it was kind of a cool experience anyway.

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