01.07.2016 - 04.12.2016 40 °C
Sarah, Paul and I all had flights from LAX so we knew we needed to leave Vegas and make our way towards the coast. We looked at the prices of flights, busses, and car rentals and were very surprised when we found we could rent a car for 4 days for just $100USD! We later found out the low prices are because LA is always very very short of cars so they are desperately try to attract people to drive – and it worked!
The drive was long and tiring, Sarah and I took turns as we drove through the ever changing desert and into the night. I was not at all sad to leave Las Vegas, and very much looking forward to getting out to see some of my old favourite Californian haunts during our time in Los Angeles. We went out in search of my deep desire for dim sum, and made it to the best yum char in Chinatown – Oh the sweet joy of tasting what I had craved for over two years since leaving New Zealand!
With our bellies full, we made our way through the terrifying LA traffic and freeway systems towards the favourite beach of my youth - Venice! I was shocked with the change in temperature as soon as we arrived to California. So much for sunny summer and Californian beach weather – I was freezing! I can’t imagine it was much higher than 22, and I needed to wear a light sweater nearly the whole time we were there. But strolling along the beach, admiring the artwork and street artists was as fun as it ever was in the past.
Laughing at how nothing had changed when it came to the men with muscles stretching their skin to extremes as they worked out to impress on Muscle Beach.
The two major changes I noticed were a great rise in the number of homelessness and people everywhere seemed to be sleeping rough. The other thing I noticed was that the whiffs of marijuana seemed to be all store bought – from the well-advertised medical marijuana stores on every corner, where a consultation to get a medical marijuana id would cost just $40.
The beach sprawled in front of us and the rollerbladers and bikers trailed around in circles as we perched on the grass bank and planned our next moves. Sarah and I had promised each other we would ride the rollercoasters of 6 Flags – something we had both always wanted to do, ride the best rollercoasters in the world. We knew it would be best to enter the park as soon as it entered, so we drove north and stayed at a hotel right next to the theme park. Turns out however that it didn’t matter at what time we entered – because there was nothing more than lines and more lines ALL DAY LONG! Everything was against us – height of summer vacation time, 42-degree weather, and we didn’t have the money ($120 each, on top of our entry fee!!) to pay for the fast pass which means you can cut all of the lines. It really was quite the disaster. Even lining up for a drink refill took over 45 minutes – as no water, drinks, or food is allowed to be brought into the park they certainly had quite the money maker going on with everyone craving ice cold refreshments!
Because we had entered early, we managed to get on a few rides without too much of a wait – but then the madness really began. Wait times of 3 hours were posted at the queue entry points, and I just had no patience nor desire to stand in a line for so long. I was convinced there must be another way; how could 6 Flags still be SO popular when people were paying $90 just to get into the park and only be able to enjoy 2 or 3 rides all day due to wait times? I was quickly losing despair, when Sarah and I realised that yes there was another option. As long as we didn’t ‘need’ to be sitting together, we could travel up the exit queues of most rides, and then be put on as single riders – basically where a family of 5 takes up a cart for 6 then they throw us on into the empty seats. And it was the best trick we learned as we managed to do nearly every single ride at the park that way – and in most cases, we were sitting together anyway!
The final ride of the day, we had heard was amazing but the queue was too long and single rider wasn’t available. So we waited it out and decided to wait when the sun had gone down a lot more and there were less people. We only had to wait 45 minutes – and it was worth it. Seriously, it was the best rollercoaster I have ever been on in my entire life. You sit into the seat, which straps you in before rotating the entire cart so that everone is facing downwards. The cart travels underneath the tracks, with your back parallel to the track, feet and face dangling down so you can see the ground underneath as you are thrown around, upside down, and up and over huge drops that throw your stomach somewhere below for you to pick up again once you get off. I never even knew a ride like that existed!
The next day, my early morning flight was due to leave for Mexico so we stayed near to the airport for easy access. I was sad to be parting from Sarah. Growing up as cousins in different countries, we are used to having our time together as concentrated madness and fun. But I have always wished to have her in my life in a more normal context as well. Hugging her at the airport, I was sad our time was already ending but beginning to feel excited to head to Mexico again – and of course because it meant another day closer to seeing Grace on my return to LA.
I arrived in Puerto Vallarta very excited to be back in one of my all time favourite countries. The yearning for dumplings had been eagerly replaced with my deep love for all things Mexican – tacos, sopes, quesadillas, burritos, ceviche, tostadas, salsas, aguas frescas, micheladas, tequila – I WANTED ALL OF IT! And I quickly got it too, as my friends Mom picked me up from the airport and took me straight to their family’s favourite seafood restaurant where I ate marlin and prawn tacos, a seafood hamburger, drowned with a HUGE cielo rojo michelada. What a dream life. The weather was HOT and super humid again, and I was excited for Adriana to finish work so we could go on an adventure.
Little did I know that the adventure would begin before I even found my beautiful friend again… Tere (Adri’s Mom) took me to a beautiful viewpoint over the ocean and town of Puerto Vallarta where we sipped on round two of giant Micheladas... this time with prawns and veggies on top!
She then handed me the keys, and told me I was to drive to the resort where Adriana works so that I knew the route and could pick her up the next day! Having never driven in Mexico, and with quite a few micheladas down – I slowly made the drive as Tere clutched the dashboard and yelled directions in Mexican slang. Now if you speak Spanish, you understand what I mean about Mexican slang and no further explanation is really needed here... However, if you do not - basically they have millions of bizarre words that no other country d oes. And they have double meanings for everything too – like hidden meanings. And then they even have words that mean one thing yet simultaneously mean a completely different thing. Like “Que padre.” Which means literally; “what father.” But it is used to mean “wowwww that’s so cool!” Or my personal favourite “que pedo” which literally means; “what fart” but has a million different uses from “wow, that’s difficult” to “what’s up?” I love Mexican Spanish, it is my favourite accent and dialect of all the Spanish speaking countries I have visited, and their happiness and way of life is totally contagious. But when driving tipsy – which is something I have very very VERY rarely ever done, through Mexico, in my friends Mom’s car – Mexican Spanish just made NO sense. So when she warned me that there was a hidden speed bump – I thought she was showing me the coconuts on the side of the road. Then she started yelling “speed bump” which I still didn’t understand, before finally PARATE YAAAA! (STOOOOPPPP NOWWWWW!) which I did – just in time. After the hidden speed bump I also had to stop for a racoon, a family of ducks, and a hedgehog. I was more than grateful to hand the keys over once we got to the resort where Adriana works… Suffice to say, I was never asked to drive again and thankfully Tere is filled with the same sense of humour as her daughter because we all still laugh about it to this day!
It was so wonderful to be reunited with the gorgeous friend I met on the island of Holbox all those years ago. We had always kept in touch and my promises to return were finally fulfilled. Despite headaches and tiredness we decided to go out just for one or two drinks – ha. That always ends exactly the way the plan starts doesn’t it? We met up with some of her wonderful friends and began to down rum until the foreigner had the stupid idea to shout
“he estado en el querido Mexico ya hace 9 horas y no he visto ni una gota de de tequila. Todavia estoy en los pinches estados unidos o que?” / “I have been in Mexico for 9 hours and I still haven’t seen even a drop of tequila. Am I still in the bloody USA or what?”
Well, one doesn’t say such a thing in Mexico without being surrounded by a variety of beautiful bottles to choose from. Thank fully the experts were on hand to choose for me as we made our way through most of the bottle. We entered the club next door to the bar where we were seated at a private table and loaded up with bottles of rum.
So much for one drink – we stumbled out of the club at closing time, loaded up on tacos – thank god for taco trucks, and tucked ourselves into bed at sunrise.
I don’t know how Adriana worked that day – mad respect. And I don’t know how she managed to finish work early, buy a box of beers for the road trip with all of the friends as we piled into a variety of SUV’s and head out to Sayulita. I wish I had the liver of a Mexican. My god, they know how to pile away chelas/ beers without even batting an eyelid!
We arrived to the beautiful beach town of Sayulita around mid-afternoon and of course the first destination was a beach bar for delicious food and more alcohol. The town itself was absolutely gorgeous – it reminded me slightly of a busy and bustling Coromandel. Lots of tiny hippy stores, yoga and surf signs everywhere, vegan and vegetarian restaurants, and lots of funky looking hostels around town. I knew instantly why Adriana had taken me there, and I thanked her for the wonderful gift of sharing with me one of her favourite parts of her beautiful country.
The afternoon drifted into sunset as Adriana and I threw off our clothes and swam in the warm Pacific Ocean. My first time in the Pacific Ocean for 2 years – despite looking out across the ocean towards New Zealand from El Tunco in El Salvador the year before, and the week before from Venice Beach in California. I was instantly hit with a reminder that the Pacific is COLD even when in Sayulita with 38-degree heat and 100% humidity!
As sunset turned into evening, we moved on from our ocean side spot and headed to one of the little bars alongside the central park of Sayulita. We danced and continued to consume ridiculous numbers of tequila shots while my other hand held tight to an endless supply of micheladas. By the time we finally made it back to our beds at sunrise, both of us had swollen legs and the beginnings of killer hangovers – however only one of us had to work that day (and it wasn’t me)!
I went out with Adriana’s sister Danny and her Mamma to a birthday party at a beautiful apartment overlooking the ocean and the city. We got all dressed up to join in the madness, and had a wonderful afternoon – again with micheladas in hand and piles of glorious food. I swear, my soul is a true Mexican.
My time in Puerto Vallarta was short and sweet and I headed off to Guadalajara with a heavy heart. I was hugely disappointed that I wasn’t able to get out to the secret beach in the islas marietas due to the destructiveness of human activity, but I was so pleased to have had a chance to spend some time with one of my favourite friends from my time out of New Zealand – and to get to know her town, and meet some of her wonderful friends and family who are now mine too! Thanks Adriana for the memories, te quiero siempre mi loquita x