The taxi boat

Puerto Vallarta – Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The sky is very overcast, the sea is agitated. My two big bags on the quay, I’m ready for departure. A guy loads them on the water cab with a big can and a big plastic bag filled with meat, they look like ribs. It’s a 45 minutes crossing, direction Yelapa. Engine at full speed, the boat hits and bounces on the waves.

Yelapa is only accessible by sea. The water cab runs along the wild southern coast of the Bahía de Banderas. At the bend of a rocky point, we arrive in sight of Yelapa: a deep bay lined with green mountains, a blond beach fringed with palm trees, about twenty colorful pangas (traditional boat) tossed by the swell, a village that stretches to the heights and, in the sky, the ball of frigates and pelicans.
As I disembark, I have the astonishing impression of arriving on an island, with this rhythm always a degree calmer than on the mainland. The absence of cars should help. No road connects Yelapa to the rest of the world, the wharf is the nerve center of the village.
Here is the view from my bedroom: the small river, the beach, the jungle and the bay of Yelapa.
Two strong guys unload my luggage and carry it on their backs.
A few minutes later, I see a red quad approaching. It’s Jairo, my AirBnb host. He loads my two big bags at the front onto the luggage rack. I climb to the back. A maze of alleyways that go up, down and around.

The casa Santana

A woman, with her black hair up in her cap, is sitting on the low wall. It is Anita, Jairo’s mother, who welcomes me sympathetically. Casa Santana is surrounded by a small garden overflowing with plants and a hammock. A palm tree roof, two large windows without glass but with bars. Three steps lead to the large main room, a well equipped kitchen with gas stove, oven, fridge, freezer and a large counter. Carpets with geometric patterns and bright yellow, red and blue colors. Large bouquets of flowers: bird of paradise and alpinia brighten up the house. Upstairs, the bedroom with a suspended bed hung by four ropes from the large bamboo beams of the frame. A large mosquito net protects the bed.
Relaxing in a deckchair, in front of the bay I sip a very fresh Corona accompanied by pieces of coconut with a bit of crushed chilli pepper, salt and lemon juice. The sun sets the sky ablaze. Night falls suddenly.

My first night in
the jungle

I plug in an anti-mosquito plug that acts more like a placebo because the house is completely open. I can’t find the light upstairs and go to bed by the light of my flashlight. A last check of the sheets to see if there are any intruders and I slip under the mosquito net. The bed sways gently giving me the impression of being rocked. The atmosphere is moist and warm. A light breeze passes over my skin without cooling it. I turn on my reading light. One, two, three, ten flies rush on the luminous screen. My reading light turns into a battlefield, I chase them away and crush them as the lines go by. Nature prevails over technique. I turn everything off and in the darkness of the night with my ears wide open, I listen: crickets, toads and frogs and other unidentified ones sing, croak, whistle, blow incessantly. The sounds of the jungle are innumerable, constant, fascinating.
Corona Yelapa
Yelapa coucher de soleil
Fourmis ailée

The bugs

They walk, they run, they jump, they crawl, they fly. From the infinitely small to the infinitely large. Camouflage or luminescent. With feathers, hair, scales, shells. Warm-blooded or cold-blooded. In silence or shouting. They are everywhere. They dig, they weave, they scratch, they pick, they carry, they bite, they sting.
Mosquitoes, crabs, cockroaches, ants, spiders, butterflies, crickets, frogs, dogs, cats, rats, squirrels, bats, chickens, roosters, birds of all kinds, gecco, iguanas, snakes…
Un iguane
Un iguane

The village

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Anita suggested me to go and visit the village. With Anita, we are the same age, she has two children, a boy Jairo and a girl Lupita, she is a grandmother. Anita was born in Yelapa.
Anita explains to me that Yelapa has a specific status, that of “comunidad indigena”, which authorizes her to manage her territory in an autonomous way, an agreement that dates back to 1581. The lands of the municipality are the property of the community, and no land can be sold to foreigners. The village has about a thousand inhabitants, all of whom know each other.
Yelapa has been welcoming tourists for a long time. In the 1960s, Bob Dylan, Dennis Hopper and other artists sailing against the tide came here to recharge their batteries. They were imitated by a number of gringos bewitched by this simple place, closer to nature than to commercialism.
Electricity only arrived in 2001 and no cash dispenser has yet been installed.
Stores are counted on the fingers of one hand.

un petit garçon sur un âne
To get around: it is either on foot, on a quad bike or on a mule back.
We walk through the small labyrinth of cobbled streets that wind through the village. Hibiscus and bougainvillea color the streets.
We pass in front of Micheladas Vicky’s house held by Anita’s cousin. Micheladas are the house specialty, a typical Mexican cocktail mixing beer, lemon juice, Clamato (clam and tomato juice) and spicy sauces, with shrimps and fresh vegetables as an option.
We arrive at the waterfall at the top of the village, which during the heavy rains overflows.
We go down to go along the bay. We meet harnessed mules carrying big bags filled with pebbles. A fisherman is cleaning a bloody tuna. He throws the entrails on the beach as soon as they are caught by the pelicans who would not miss a piece.
Un pêcheur à Yelapa
La baie de Yelapa
Water taxi
La baie de Yelapa
Yelapa des ânes
Yelapa un ane

The jungle

The dirt road runs along the river. Houses stretch all the way along. Carambolas, jackfruit trees, avocados grow in abundance. Anita walks barefoot, a stick in her hand. Mullets roped together, loaded with big bags on each blank, advance cahin caha.
We arrive at a suspension bridge that connects the other bank. On the bank, pieces of concrete are the old piers of the bridge destroyed during a flash flood. In a few hours, the river has risen several meters, carrying everything in its path: houses, animals and even “an Americano” explains Anita.
“This is my family’s land,” says Anita. One day, I would like to set up a restaurant there for the tourists who go to see the waterfall and why not a small store… This is Lupita, my daughter who lives here.
An open-air kitchen, a few tables, the “Jungle garden”. We sit around a small table. Lupita brings us a fresh homemade lemonade. I drink it with so much pleasure because I am really, really hot. The hair stuck on the nape of my neck, the back of my wet shirt, I sweat a lot. The sky is leaded and looks like a pressure cooker. The atmosphere is heavy, the river flows below.
Lupita prepares us a ceviche of pescado: raw tuna, lemon, tomato, small peppers.
A couple approaches and exchanges a few words with Anita. The shirt open, a cap on his gray hair, it’s the neighbor, Gabriel tells me Anita. For me, he poses with his machete.
Le pont suspendu
Dans la jungle
Des caramboles
Des jacquiers
Cabane sur pilotis
Yelapa la jungle
Des avocats
Dans la jungle
Dans la jungle
Dans la jungle
La rivière boueuse
Most people are brought to the beach for a day time. They come to lie on the sand for three or four hours, have lunch in the shade of the palapas (palm roofs) of the beach restaurants, before returning to Puerto Vallarta in the late afternoon.
Yelapa la plage
To explore Yelapa bay in paddle board

The beach

The beach is separated from the rest of the village by the river which is more or less wide and deep depending on the tides. Every noon I wade across the river to settle down at the beach restaurant. If it rained, the water carries a lot of mud and you don’t know where you put your foot. It was the case for my first blind crossing, I was not leading a lot of people, advancing step by step in this brown water, sometimes up to my knees.

I stop at the first restaurant, “Chez Domingo” and order a coconut to refresh myself.
To eat, it will be an aguachile of camerones: a dish prepared with raw shrimps, lime, avocado, cucumbers and sweet onions.

What’s not my surprise to see a guy carrying an iguana. I get a twinge in my heart when I look at this wild animal used for the sole pleasure of the tourist posing for the Instagram photo. This merry-go-round is repeated every day.

Chercher l'iguane
Un iguane en photo
Every lunch I watch for the passage of the “pie lady”. The village pastry cook walks the beach, offering her banana, coconut or mango pies. I tasted them all, each one more tasty than the other.
La pie lady

And after what? 

Every day, I wonder about the continuation of my journey.
Covid cases continue to rise in Mexico and elsewhere.
How to stop this infernal progression? Rumors of reconfinement are circulating in Mexico. The border countries Guatemala, Panama, Peru are still closed. The Coronavirus is raging in Brazil where the number of cases is soaring.

Monday, July 13, 2020

It’s impossible for me to continue my journey in South America.
What to do? Stay in Mexico? Go back to San Miguel de Allende? Change continents?
In a world without Covid, after my journey in South America, I had planned to reach Tahiti in November via Easter Island. You have to adapt to the circumstances.
It’s decided I’m going to Tahiti, it’s a little earlier than I imagined… but, this decision reassures my family and friends.
Polynesia is deconfined since early July and reopens its air connection with the United States. The quarantine (15 days in isolation) will be lifted on July 15, 2020.
Strict conditions are set up for the entry in Polynesia including a PCR test to be done in the 48 hours before the departure. Alas, I don’t have the possibility to do this test in Mexico. So I have to make a stopover during 2 days in Los Angeles in order to carry out this famous test in one of the listed laboratories.
I book a plane ticket from Puerto Vallarta to Los Angeles for Thursday July 16 and a second ticket from Los Angeles to Papetee for Saturday July 18.

Le regard au loin
Le pont suspendu
Yelapa en bateau
vue d'avion
I’m not very enthusiastic about spending 2 days in Los Angeles. California is currently experiencing an explosion of new cases. But I have no choice. I book an AirBnb right next to the airport and the lab…
To relive these 2 days in a world in full crisis of Covid,
it’s this way.
Dans l'avion pour Tahiti

The next stage of my journey is Tahiti.

vue d'avion
Avion pour Tahiti
Follow me on social media, share and write me from time to time, it could be worth more than what you can imagine …
… When you spend hours paddling and you’re on the other side of the world embarassed

Follow me on social media, share and write me from time to time, it could be worth more than what you can imagine …
… When you spend hours paddling and you’re on the other side of the world