Mar 13, 2012

Chacala [Náhuatl] – Where There Are Shrimp or Lobsters

Fighting for peace is like
Screwing for virginity.
George Carlin 

View of the bay from the volcano area
An absolutely beautiful tiny cove you would not know existed, especially sailing from the North, if you were not particularly looking for it with the help of way-points, cruisers’ guides or word of mouth from other sailors, you would easily miss it.

Moonrise over palm trees
We arrived late in the afternoon but in time to see a magnificent ocean sunset at our bow and a near full moon rising over old coconut trees at our stern. Mike saw the famous fleeting green flash as the sun rapidly disappeared over the watery horizon, something he had heard much about but hadn’t experienced yet.

Only five to ten boats can fit here at one time depending on size and if they are all steadied with stern anchors. Sadly, the week we arrived, two mooring buoys were just installed leaving even less room. Wondering if this is a trend that will grow; eventually making this little gem of a place no longer accessible to anchor.

Rocks and cairns overlooking Owl Island
This clean crescent beach is surrounded by hills covered with coconut palms, banana trees, and other types of orchards I cannot distinguish but it is very green and lush. A few uncovered areas show deep red and ocher dirt, a great color contrast to the abundant greenery and the white beach sporadically dotted with black volcanic rocks. We see ads for coffee plantation tours so I assume they grow it here as well… I find out they do, but more inland, not so coastal.

Beautiful planting arrangement burgundy, pink, yellow and green
Mother Nature's colors
The town of 300 full-time residents is sprinkled with very colorful homes mostly hidden in vegetation as well. The perennial palapas line the beachfront with restaurants, musicians, fish smoking, fresh coconut juice selling and ambulant sales people milling around the vacationers. We find it very interesting that ambulant sales people selling food are accepted in the restaurants – you would think competition would forbid that but not here. It is true they seem to sell what is not found on the menus of these various restaurants but it is still not something I think we would find in the US or Canada.

Our boat from where we had lunch
Chacala is known for its physical beauty, unhurried lifestyle, and for the efforts of a small group of "socially conscious" and "proactive" Americans to change the lifestyle of the residents. You definitely feel an enhanced flair for living right: a cleaner environment, yoga, massages, organic foods, meditation, sweat lodges, drumming circles, mindfulness, etc… a “New-Age” Mexican village!

Vine/Mangrove covered brick walls surrounding a courtyard
According to business owners, Canadians provide approximately 75% of the business. Many own homes in town and spend their winters here. A while back, the Mexican government gave incentives to the locals to build rental houses for travelers and many did but now the town is regrettably overrun with them and many are vacant.

Mike went for a swim around the boat yesterday, a very nice way to cool down in the late warm afternoon.
We accomplished two firsts on this part of the trip: First time using a stern anchor and first time enjoying a true day-sail e.g.: leave in the morning and be safely tucked away before night time in a new location. So far all our sailings have been over longer periods of times with night watches, etc. It is actually quite refreshing to be in such a vastly different looking landscape yet only 23 miles away from our last anchorage. This area is not teeming with bugs since we are not near any estuaries and it is much more agricultural and less based on fishing as San Blas.

We had planned on visiting more of town today but our friends on SV Bluefin (Australia) arrived and we visited with them over lunch. What an absolute joy it was to see them again especially since we didn’t think we’d see them again this year.

Lunch was at Chac Mool (Thundering Paw), a small restaurant, café, and wine bar. Although they serve the fairly typically accepted Mexican tourist fares it is good and they are cruiser friendly. Whenever possible they use local and/or organic products. They have free Wi-Fi, a small book exchange area, and very large comfortable chairs/sofas to sit on while using the internet or sipping your morning coffee. The owner is from Guadalajara and speaks good English if that is something helpful to you. The Chacala beach is the closest beach to Guadalajara so many from this large city come here to relax.

A very small organic farmers market is held from 9am-noon on Saturdays. Only a few cookies, cupcakes, French baguettes, tapenade, jams, salad dressings, pesto, marmalade, coffee, hibiscus tea, and various greens: kale, arugula, red and green lettuce, basil, and dill were available. For a town of a few hundred people that’s a start. We had to get a baguette and some basil and already delicious pesto has been made by Mike for our next dinner.

We spent an afternoon in Las Varas, six miles away, the larger town where everyone seems to go for basic supplies. We took a “collectivo” (taxi/van/bus) there. These ancient Dodge (mostly) vans turned into taxis are heavily used. On the way there we noticed the driver was making several “home deliveries” bringing mostly meat cuts to different restaurants or homes. He also stopped at the hardware store for a while. On the way back the driver was handed a small school backpack to bring back to Chacala – probably forgotten by a visiting kid in Las Varas. It is amazing how many Mexicans do not have vehicles so these services are indispensable and we, cruisers, get the benefit of it.

On the way, we saw many beautiful orchards and farms following the contours of all the hills around: lettuce, pineapple, yaka (jackfruit), guava, mango, papaya, hibiscus, banana, guanabana (soursop), and tobacco, are grown here and several plantations have cows meandering through the fields or trees. Of the tropical deciduous forest on the Pacific Coast the Nayarit area has been found to be among the top 10 most species-rich flora habitats on earth.

Las Varas is somewhat like San Blas (both approximately 12,000 people) in such that neither is large enough to have a real supermarket. People go to Tepic or Puerto Vallarta for that. You can still find all basics you need food-wise until the next large city…

On the south side of the Chacala Bay is an old volcano crater. We hiked up to see the view from there. On the side facing the ocean, this extinct volcano is now speckled with very pricy homes topped by a guanabana plantation. The rest of the way stayed quite wild and natural.

On the way back we enjoyed homemade ice cream at this tiny little café called Colibri (hummingbird). Had chocolate and lemon – it was a delicious combination of tastes. Amazing that it was made by hand that day… The café is not on the beach but is well worth a stop. He also carries homemade breads and organic coffee grown locally. The owner is yet another Mexican we have met who has come back from living in the US and is now again calling Mexico home. There is definitely a trend here…

Yesterday afternoon we watched a swimmer come close to our sailboat (quite a ways from the beach). He seemed to be struggling a bit so Mike invited him to come aboard to catch his breath. Carlos the beekeeper from El Capomo had just brought his bees over here to pollinate the mango trees. It’s interesting to chat with the locals especially when they don’t expect kindness from tourists, many who would think they are scouting items to steal on the boat…

Clever Boat Name: Heeling Hands (owner does Reiki)

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