Updated: Apr 23, 2020
12/2-6 Barra de Navidad
We left La Penita at 10 am. The night before Larry had found our next spot on Ioverlander. We are heading down highway 200 along the coast to Barra de Navidad.
He found a place called Bungalows Laguna del Tule that looks good.
It’s on a strip of land between the beach and a lagoon. We might see crocodiles at the lagoon! Camping right on the beach sounds great too. The drive is only 5 hours but with our usual stops, it turned into 6 and ½.
We were cruising right along highway 200 when we came up to the signs for Puerto Vallarta. Yeah! I have enjoyed this place several times over the years as it is a quick flight from San Francisco and relatively inexpensive. I didn’t look ahead on the driving directions to see how we were getting through or around the city. I wasn’t surprised when the directions took us right through the city and down the Malecon. There were a lot of turns on cobblestone roads that were extremely narrow. At one point, we came up to a place where a flatbed truck was parked and we were supposed to pass by it!! OMG!! Larry is such a great driver but I could tell that this was testing his abilities. My words of encouragement were something like this, “There’s a bus, follow him!”. I think Larry doubts my navigation sometimes but GPS really had us driving on these roads. When we eventually got out of the city, it was time for a much needed “stress” stop.
We found a nice place to park off the road by some vendors. Larry bought a Coke and I took some pictures. The views were beautiful where we were so I took advantage of that before getting back into the truck for the rest of the drive. I was praying that we would not have anymore surprises like we just encountered.
The rest of the drive was uneventful and very pleasant. I had put the earlier incident out of my mind until we were close to the new campground. Now my navigation skills were needed and really put to the test. We spend at least 30 minutes driving up and down the same street trying to find the road to turn off. At one point, GPS got me very screwed up and was taking us on tiny one-way streets that weren’t even close to where we were supposed to be. It’s all in kilometers and meters too. When I give directions my mind thinks feet, yards, and miles. So sometimes I say the wrong words to the driver…...This does not go well. Especially on narrow one-way streets. Well, we did get out of that mess and we did find our campground. We weren’t talking, unfortunately. A little quiet time alone fixed that. Larry set up the trailer and I walked the beach. All was good again by dinner time. Of course, he wanted to eat!
We were greeted by Robert who showed us where to park. We thought Robert was the campground host because he was so friendly and helpful. Nope! Just one of those Canadian Snowbirds that was happy to see and talk to New people. We were so happy that we were right on the beach! We had a small walk across the campground to the other side, about 100 feet to the lagoon. This was a very unique place. We decided to stay 4 nights. We had a nice neighbor on the right that was camping in his van. His name was Francois and he was from Quebec, Canada. Larry and Francois visited most mornings when I was getting my Beauty Sleep. He was waiting for his family to come for a month-long visit. He had rented an apartment in town for $650 with 2 bedrooms. It sounded like a sweet deal. The neighbors to our left were a young couple that were sleeping under a canopy tent in sleeping bags. The young woman was a student but we didn’t learn much more about them. It was a great spot to be for a few relaxing days.
We found out that sleeping right on the beach does have some drawbacks. The sound of the crashing waves at night was super loud. I did ok sleeping but I think Larry got less rest. One night it was so loud it shook the Airstream! We found a lot more sand inside to clean up. Eventually, I beat out 4 cups of sand from our little carpet. We would run the fans at night to keep the trailer cool until we figured out that it brought in all the humid air and made everything wet inside. I actually had the fan drip on me while sleeping. A few drawbacks and some valuable lessons learned.
We did a bunch of walking around the little town of Barra de Navidad. The first day was the longest and we walked over 6 miles. We found a fabulous coffee and breakfast place called La Taza Negra. It was wonderful coffee and specialty juices. I was in heaven. I also got yogurt and fruit. They had live music with a young man playing his acoustic guitar. He was very good. He won my heart when he did a rendition of Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters. I put a big tip in his basket.
We walked the beach to the north and found lots of crabs that were fun and easy to catch. We saw a few big hotels that seemed to be abandoned. I found out later it was because they were destroyed in a hurricane in 2012 and never rebuilt. There still was a bunch of action on the beach for tourists but less since the hurricane. We saw many boats and people fishing right on the beach. At the end of the beach, we found an RV site that was a bit rustic- no amenities. We visited with a couple from British Columbia that were thinking about camping at this spot. People seem to be very friendly everywhere we went. We were having a enjoyable time and continued to the point at the very tip of the beach. It was a paved walkway and seemed like a party spot for locals. We found lots of beer bottles around. There was a really cool house built upon a little hill that was abandoned but locked. We couldn’t figure out how to get around the locked gate.
Since I needed to use the restroom and we were miles from our resort, it was time to find a restaurant for a beer. We stopped at the first one we found because...It WAS time! Lol It was a nice spot and we immediately made a new friend. This man named John from Vancouver B.C. He sat at our table and said he was waiting for friends to show up. He was quite interesting. We heard about his stories of sailing his boat from B.C all the way down to Barra de Navidad. He had done that in past years but this time him and his wife had flown. He had many sailing stories and had even sailed in the America’s Cup race. He loved this area and spends many months during the winter here.
Next, a friendly vendor came to our table to sell us his “special” massage oil made from hemp. I listened to him because I was interested and his english was good. Before I knew it, he had sat down across from me and taken my foot. I immediately smelled something fowl. It was like warm old poop and it was coming from him. He was so nice and he smiled at me with his toothless grin as he took my shoe and sock off. Larry just watched...I wanted him to stop the vendor but Larry was getting some kind of Sick amusement from watching me be so uncomfortable. The vendor massaged my feet with the oil. That felt ok but I was still super creeped out by the smell. I ordered another beer…..I had to. He wasn’t finished yet. It got really disgusting when he came around my back and did my shoulders! OMG!! Larry just smiled and took pictures of me. I couldn’t be rude but I was so uncomfortable. Eventually, it came to an end and he wanted something….like money. Larry bought him a beer and we directed him to another table with Fresh tourists. I hopped up and went to the restroom to wash off. Not sure if the hemp oil was good or not but it was removed as soon as possible. I sat down and had another beer before walking back to our park.
On our second full day we drove to the town of La Manzanilla We had heard from other campers they had a crocodile preserve. We hadn’t seen any in our lagoon yet. We drove over to this cute beach town. It was a quick and easy drive of 21Km to Cocodrilario La Manzanilla. It wasn’t too busy and it was super cheap, like 80 pesos($4.20 us) or something. We walked on these narrow boardwalks with fencing on either side through low hanging trees to the lagoon. We saw several Crocs in the distance. We didn’t get close on this walk but it was nice. They had a small museum with a preserve worker(Ranger) answering questions. Normally it’s in Spanish so we are on our own. This young man asked if we spoke Spanish and we said no, English. He was very fluent in English and explained some of the exhibits for us. I asked some questions too that he answered. Again I had a very good interaction with the Mexican people going out of their way to speak English with us. We have come across this over and over on our travels so far and makes me feel very good. We finished our tour with a visit to the nursery. I even got to hold a croc that was around one and ½ years old. So much fun!
We planned on spending the rest of the day in La Manzanilla. We changed into our swimwear and went to the beach. We were searching for some lunch or late breakfast. On the south end of the beach we found a nice little cafe, Crocodile Bar and Cabañas. Larry had some amazing chili and I had some guacamole. We had a few beers too. Our plan after was to lay on the beach and maybe swim. It was super windy so that didn’t last very long. The sand was blowing all over us. We decided to just walk the beach and explore. We found another campground that had an old Airstream which looked like it had a permanent home there. This was only the second Airstream we’ve seen in Mexico so far. We also found a fabulous cemetery to walk through and see the elaborate above-ground tombs or mini houses. Some are very large and most are painted bright colors with flowers, balloons, and gifts decorating them. I always love a good cemetery.
The last full day was spent on our own beach. We walked to the south this time. The beach was super slopey and with lots of loose sand. It was very difficult to walk easily on. We did the best we could. We walked over 3 miles so we did get somewhere. We looked at the houses or apartments on the beach, They looked like it was housing for locals. We didn’t see any hotels down this way or any restaurants. Our interest waned and we turned back. We figured we still needed to get in the ocean yet. Back in front of our campground we tested the water. It was a nice tetmperature and not too terribly rough. We played around a while til it was almost sunset. When I got out I had to be careful to time it perfect so I wouldn’t be smacked down by a wave. It was a climb up the beach to get out.
We watched our last sunset from a lookout palapa on the beach that was up about 20 feet in the air. We had a beer and took some pictures. Larry had done a great job of finding this campsite. I approve and would stay here again if we come this way again. Since he did so well. I’ll let him pick our next destination.