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Barra de Navidad, Jalisco

Headed south from Sayulita, GPS estimated that it was going to take around 5 hours to drive to Barra de Navidad. The route passes through Puerto Vallarta, a popular vacation destination, and continues south through the mountains away from the coastline, and rejoins a couple of times. The drive took us closer to 8 hours due to our aversion to speeding, and occasional stops to buy food from the road-side stands or to enjoy the scenery and incredible views.

Pulling off the highway near Malaque/San Patricio, instantly there is an abundance of seafood restaurants, coconut stands, fresh fruit vendors, and you know you're in a beach town again. Just another 3 miles (5 km) down the road, along a beautiful walking/biking path, is our destination Barra de Navidad.

We arrived in town the first week of June 2017, which any local will tell you is "off-season," likely due to the heat of summer. While it is a considerably slower time of year than winter, we immediately felt at ease and enjoyed the quite beaches and restaurants. Coming from a tourist town, we know how crowded high-season can be, and we were happy to bring our tourism dollars to businesses that still needed to make ends meet.

The downside to arriving when we did, was that we missed out on an incredible music scene that explodes in the winter in Barra de Navidad and Melaque. We were told by many locals that during high-season there is music 7 nights a week, usually at 3-5 joints, each night! The wonderful climate attracts professional musicians that tour all over the world. We were lucky enough to stay next door to one local musician, Billy, who is incredibly talented and something of a legend around town. He lives in Barra year-round, and was kind enough to invite us to a couple of his gigs while we were visiting. We can only imagine how vibrant this town could be with the variety of music you can find in the cooler months.

One day, while out on a bike ride we were approached by Jorge Cardenas, as we rode past his business Eco Joy Adventures. He was very interested in where these two gringos on bikes came from! It was easy to like Jorge, he was very friendly and passionate about the outdoors, and sports. He hosts a group mountain bike ride 1-2 times a week, which Wayne was thrilled to join on several occasions over our time in Barra. We even met up with him and his lovely wife Angie for a couple of meals and great conversation.

(Pictured below: Jorge, Wayne and friends on a group ride)

Did you know that Mexico has crocodiles? This is something we had no idea about! Apparently the crocodiles swim in some lakes and rivers, but during rainy season (summer) the waters can overflow into the Ocean, so it is possible to see them near the shore as well! La Manzanilla is a beach town 12 miles (20 km) northwest of Barra, and happens to hosts Mexico's biggest Crocodile Sanctuary. Our friend Jorge offered to accompany us to the sanctuary, as he has been here many times because this is a service he offers his clients, and it was great to have his extra insight. We were shocked to see such a large population of crocodiles immediately upon entering the park, and not to mention these creatures are humongous! From what we could see above water, these crocs looked to be well over 10-12 feet long. For roughly $2-3 US dollars, we were thoroughly entertained as we walked through the mangroves on raised walkways and bridges. At the end of the self-guided tour we came to the nursery where we were each able to hold a baby crocodile!

Donde Van Pro Tip: bring bug spray and make sure to put it on before entering the sanctuary! This is not a zoo with pools, it is an actual living mangrove forest that is maintained just enough for people to walk through, but it is definitely a wild and natural place... with 101 million mosquitoes.

While Wayne was scheduled to leave from Mexico back to the US in mid-June, it was such a relief to have settled in to Barra de Navidad and to have already met some great local people there. I was really looking forward to meeting up with my best friend Lexi in Mexico City for a girls' tour of the big city- blog post on that trip to follow! Soon after that I was lucky enough to have Wayne's mom, Peggy, keep me company back in Barra while Wayne was away working for HopeCam. The idea of not having Wayne by my side was much less-anxiety-inducing knowing that I was going to have some quality time in Mexico with two great ladies. On the other hand, it was slightly terrifying because I was going to be playing the role of the Spanish-speaker without Wayne around!

With Peggy by my side, we managed to eat and drink at some of the best Mexican restaurants in town. There are also many other international cuisines available besides Mexican, but hey, when in Rome, ... er, umm, I mean Mexico! We both share a love for great food and a nice cold cocktail, so it was an ideal town to keep us both happy and full. In fact, we thoroughly enjoyed one restaurant, El Jardin de Chuy, and the lovely women that ran it, so much so that we came back every few days for the abuela's cooking, and her daughter's delicious drinks.

Several canals run through Barra, there is a marina and also a lagoon which is perfect for swimming in calmer waters. Boat taxis can take you to the other side of the lagoon, to another town called Colimilla, where there are half a dozen restaurants on the waters edge. There is no better setting to have fresh seafood! Peggy and I took a water taxi to visit Restaurante Colimilla and were so pleased with their grilled fish and margaritas, that we knew we had to bring Wayne when he came back.

Once Wayne was done with his work during RAAM, he flew back via the Manzanillo airport, where Peggy and I picked him up. The race was a success, and so was the fact that I had survived 3 weeks in Mexico without him! Happy to be reunited, we continued to adventure, and took Peggy on a day-trip north to a snorkeling beach called Tenacatita. We had the beach to ourselves mostly, and the whole day to hunt for shells (Peggy's favorite pastime!), snorkel/spear fish, take in the views and have a picnic together. It was couldn't have been a nicer day. (Pictured below: our picnic spot at Tenacatita)

(Pictured below: Wayne snorkeling and Peggy hunting for her shells on the beach behind him!)

Another day of exploring led us to the nearby town, Melaque, where Wayne took us for a hike high above town. It was a very hot day, so we were all happy to be able to splash in the water after our adventure. Sadly, a few days later it was Peggy's turn to head up back to the states, and for us to head down the road again. It was starting to feel like our trip was beginning for a second time, because now we had no idea where we were off to next! (Pictured below: Peggy and Wayne overlooking Melaque)

As we mentioned in our previous post, our time in Barra de Navidad would not have been possible without the help of family friends from Tahoe, Robin and Kirk. Once they heard about our travels to Mexico, and our unique logistical situation pertaining to Wayne going back to work in the US, they did not hesitate to offer us their home and a place to safely park the van. We are so grateful for their kindness, and we will forever share their enthusiasm and love for Barra, it's people, beautiful beaches and amazing technicolor sunsets! (Pictured below: sunset view from Robin & Kirk's)

Off to the next spot...!

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