Punta el Custodio

You are currently browsing articles tagged Punta el Custodio.

I hate people who ask me what sort of animal I’d like to be. They’re the sort of people who love Celine Dion and think J. K. Rowling should get the Nobel prize in literature. Frankly, I would never want to be any animal. Their lives are very British: nasty, brutish, and short.

One animal I’d particularly never want to be is a sea turtle. Talk about nasty and brutish (and often short).

Playa las Tortugas isn’t just a pretty name. There are actually turtles here. In fact, the five miles of coastline along this stretch of Nayarit Riviera is a Mexican sea turtle conservation area. Between June and December, a couple hundred, at most, female sea turtles—mostly Olive Ridleys, although also Leatherbacks and Blacks—make their way back to  Playa las Tortugas and lay thousands of eggs in the sand. During this time, volunteers and students patrol the beach and, when they find a nest, mark it and keep an eye on the eggs until they hatch. 

A basket of Olive Ridleys sea turtles

A basket of Olive Ridley sea turtles

 Then BOOM! Over a few nights time, thousands of hatchlings, smaller than the palm of your hand, hit the beach like it’s D-Day and they’re invading Normandy—in reverse. I’m not sure exactly how many baby Olive Ridleys were released last month. Just for the sake of argument, let’s say it was something like 10,000 (in 2007, a record number 106 female turtles came up to lay nests on Playa las Tortugas resulting in some 8,000 hatchlings, so let’s be optimistic here and assume there were even more moms around in 2008).

So that’s pretty good, right? I mean, 10,000 turtles, small or not, would certainly make a hell of a mess around my house. But—and this is the reason I’d never, ever want to be born a turtle—the survival rate for hatchling turtles is a measly 1%. Which means that even if 10,000 Olive Ridleys made it into the calm waters of Turtle Beach on a moon-less night shortly after Halloween last year, only about a hundred will ever return.

Now that’s nasty, brutish, and short. 

Tags: , , , ,

The oh-so-stylish Malin wearing one of her many hats. Photo by David Lansing.

Earlier this year, Malin celebrated one of those big birthdays with a big 0 behind it and I volunteered to make a video for the party. Her husband, Chris, gave me literally thousands of photos to sift through for the video. Shots of her growing up as a child in Sweden, coming to California as an exchange student, her courtship and marriage to Chris, then the three babies that followed. When I’m putting videos like this together, I’m always looking for some sort of theme running through the photos, something I can hang a story on. With Malin, it was hats. Over the years, there were shots of her wearing Swedish naval hats and Viking horns; fur hats, felt berets, and wool caps; big, floppy JackiO straw numbers and peculiar British hats with feathers and such.

I thought what I’d do is interview Sally, her wonderful, stylish mother-in-law, and rather tongue-in-cheek, have Sally point out that as a mom-wife-volunteer-teacher-Swedish advocate, Malin obviously wore a lot of hats in the family. And intersperse Sally’s interview with dozens of quick shots of Malin over the years wearing various hats. But the video got to be a bit long as I was putting it together and I had to scrap the hat idea.

What I didn’t stop to consider when I was thinking of Malin and hats is that her husband, Chris, also has a fondness for odd hats. As you can see from this photo I took of him last year when we went birding in San Blas. If you look closely, you’ll see that he’s actually wearing two hats: a baseball hat and then a floppy straw number. It’s rather striking, don’t you think? Perhaps some fashion designer will see this photo and all the male models will be wearing double hats during fashion week next spring.

Chris just might start a new trend in the fashion world with this double hat look. Photo by David Lansing.

Tags: ,

The thing about staying at the Fletcher’s Casa Corona del Mar is that you’re bound to gain weight. The minute you walk in the door (even if it’s well before noon) one of the Fletchers is liable to offer you a cerveza or a margarita made with just-pressed limes. Just to be polite, I’m liable to say, “Sure, why not,” thinking I’ll spend the afternoon lounging on one of their oversized outdoor beds on the patio and, you know, make my single margarita last until comida.


Photos by David Lansing

Photos by David Lansing

The problem is that the Fletchers are treacherous people; every time you close your eyes, just for a moment, or grab the binoculars to look at the humpback whales breaching a short distance from shore, they refill your drink.

And then the afternoon becomes what I like to call a Mexican Dorothy Parker afternoon. Remember what she said about martinis? “I like to have a martini, two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, after four I’m under the host.”

The same goes for the Fletcher’s margaritas.

Yesterday, they hosted a fiesta at their home. Marta and several other cooks at Punta el Custodio made a plethora of food, ending with red and green enchiladas and grilled camerones the size of small lobsters.

Since Marta was otherwise employed and the Fletchers were being gracious hosts, I took over as bartender, making batch after batch of blended margaritas. Of course, I had to sample each pitcher to make sure I’d gotten the ingredients just right, sometimes adding another splash or two of tequila, other times sweetening things up with a bit more Mexican Controy (which, to my tastes, is far superior in a margarita to the traditional French Cointreau).

We drank, we ate. The Latin music was fabulous. People got a little tipsy (did someone fall into the pool?). As often happens, the hangers on stayed late and laughed riotously at absolutely nothing. Eventually when the last guests left, I tucked myself into what the Fletchers call The Chicken Room (because of its yellow walls and tin chicken lamps) and turned off the light. Amazed to see that it was 9:30.

That’s what happens when you start drinking Marta’s margaritas before noon.

Tags: , ,

Playa las Tortugas

There are two ways to get to Playa las Tortugas from the Fletcher’s house, Casa Corona del Mar. You can make your way down the hill to Platanitos and then drive for about six miles down a rutted dirt road through Mexican cowboy land (cattle, mango groves, and fields of tobacco) until the roads ends at a huge grove of coconut palm trees, part of a former plantation, that delineate Turtle Beach. Or, if you’d rather, you can wait until low tide and just walk across the estuary.

The latter approach might take you two minutes of wading through shallow water as opposed to a 30 minute drive. But there are risks. When the tide is up the current is strong and weak swimmers can easily be pulled out into the ocean where currents will quickly sweep you up along the coast where it is almost impossible to exit the water because of crashing waves and a rocky coast line. So you need to time your visit properly so you don’t get stuck on the wrong side of the estuary.


Crossing the estuary at low tide

Crossing the estuary at low tide

But one way or the other, you have to go to Turtle Beach. It is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Yesterday, around noon, I crossed the estuary in knee-high water and combed the golden beach for miles, collecting shells, and saw only three or four other beach goers. Later, I just plopped myself down in the shallow water, barely deep enough to cover my body, and closed my eyes as the small waves washed over me. It was as close to an all-natural massage as you’re going to get.


The long, sandy beach at Playa las Tortugas

The long, sandy beach at Playa las Tortugas

I haven’t done this yet, but Babs, a friend of the Fletchers, says I absolutely must take the estuary birding trip with Armando. She says Armando is an autodidact who knows all the flora and fauna here in Nayarit.

“At one point,” she said, “Armando whistled to a hummingbird and it came out to talk to him—just like a Disney movie.”

Hmmm….The Hummingbird Whisperer? 

Tags: , ,

Why Wal-E bites Mexicans

Nobody has ever accused me of being a dog lover, but I like Wendy’s dog, Wal-E, well enough. Perhaps because he’s always on a leash. Even when he’s just barking at the low-flying pelicans that taunt him while hanging out with me by the Fletcher’s pool. That’s because Wal-E doesn’t like Mexicans. Even though he’s a Mexican dog. Like Lou Dobbs, he indiscriminately attacks brown people (Is it possible that Lou Dobbs is actually Mexican?). Crazy, I know.


photo of Wal-E by David Lansing

photo of Wal-E by David Lansing

Chris’ cousin, Wendy, found Wal-E in the Wal-Mart parking lot in Puerto Vallarta. Which is how he got his name.

Nobody knows Wal-E’s family history but it’s not hard to imagine. He was dirty, skinny, and starving to death when Wendy spotted him. A street dog. With a chip on his scrawny shoulder. No doubt long abused by whoever came across him. In the Wal-Mart parking lot, Wendy watched one Mexican after another offer Wal-E some leftover nachos or maybe a scrap from one of those chorizo pizzas they sell at the Sam’s Club next door, but despite Wal-E’s obviously dire circumstances, he wouldn’t take their food. Or get anywhere near them without growling.

But when Wendy approached him with some chili and lime-flavored peanuts, he voraciously gobbled them straight from her hand. It just about broke her heart, she said. Now, maybe he just happens to be a dog who prefers spicy peanut snacks to gloppy nachos (who doesn’t?), but I doubt it.

Having decided then and there to adopt Wal-E, she tried to take him with her into Wal-Mart but was turned away. No dogs in the store. So she tied him up to her Jeep and gave 10 pesos to one of those kids who loads your groceries into the car to get him some water and keep an eye on him. When she came back, both the kid and Wal-E were gone. She was heartbroken.

So Wendy drove around the barrio behind Wal-Mart looking for Wal-E. And there he was, hanging around in front of one of those rotisserie chicken joints, the sort of sidewalk Mexican enterprise where you can get a whole roasted chicken, rice and beans, guacamole, salsa, and a dozen corn tortillas for about seven bucks. I love those places.

Anyway, that’s where she found Wal-E. Except he was on the other side of the highway. Which was a problem. Because in this part of Mexico, you can’t make a left turn from the left lane of the highway. What you have to do if you want to turn left is turn right instead onto a lateral road and then go way past where you wanted to turn until you come to a signal and then you cut across the lane you were in five minutes ago to make your turn. It seems crazy at first, I know, but after awhile you get used to it. Just the way some people get used to calling French fries chips and eating them with mayonnaise.

By the time Wendy had made a right hand turn onto the lateral road, gone a quarter mile or so to the next stop light, waited for the turn signal, crossed the highway, exited onto another lateral road, and found the rotisserie chicken place, Wal-E had disappeared again.

Fortunately, within minutes she spotted him. This time he was in the middle of the highway, trapped between four lanes of rickety buses, speeding pick-ups, and over-loaded trucks. Wal-E was doomed. So Wendy did the only thing she could do; she stopped her car in the middle of the road. Which is like coming to a halt in the middle of a Los Angeles freeway (if the freeway was full of potholes, dead animals, and auto parts that have flown off countless vehicles).

She got out and, somehow avoiding death, grabbed Wal-E. He then rode the entire way to Punta El Custodio sitting on Wendy’s lap with his snout tucked in her crotch (you know boys). In gratitude, the minute they got home, Wal-E jumped out of the car and bit two  construction workers mixing cement at Bodega Boys’ parents house across the street. For good measure, he then attacked Ismael, who manages the development. And is the kindest, nicest soul I know. Ismael refuses to spray the compound’s landscaping for mosquitos in the rainy season because it would, you know, kill them. But he threatened to shoot Wal-E. Right then and there. Despite the fact that I’m pretty sure Ismael doesn’t own a gun.

The thing is, dogs aren’t allowed in this Mexican development. Particularly not dogs that go around biting Mexicans for no reason. So Wendy told Ismael that Wal-E was just visiting, which he sort of was, and that he’d go home with her when she left Casa Corona del Mar, neglecting to mention that this wouldn’t be for another four months. Ismael didn’t completely buy Wendy’s story, however. He told her Wally could stay, temporarily, but only if he was always on a leash. Always. Even inside Casa Corona del Mar.

Which is why, yesterday afternoon, Wal-E was tied to my teak chaise lounge, driving me crazy while he barked incessantly at the pelicans as I tried to enjoy one of Marta’s fresh-squeezed lime juice margaritas while finishing my Jon Krakauer book about those violent Mormons. And this is why it was so difficult to explain to Wendy what happened to Wal-E as I dozed off after another margarita or two. The leash was still there. Only Wal-E was gone. Needless to say, I felt horrible. But I’m sure Wendy will find him. Hopefully before Ismael does.   

Tags: , , ,

« Older entries