A couple Sundays ago, Jessica from Hajime (HA-jee-may – Jessica and Jim practice judo, and that means ‘begin’) and I took an entire day off the boats and explored the Botanical Gardens. We started pretty early – at 8 am – trudging up to the bus stop….
Wait, you say 8 am isn’t early?
- The sun doesn’t break over the horizon until nearly 7:30 in our part of the world.
- We’re retired. Yes it is.
…..trudging up to the bus stop here in La Cruz to catch a combi (van) into Puerto Vallarta. Once in Vallarta, the combis and buses stop different places, so if you have a specific destination in mind, you need to ask the combi driver how far he goes in. We made it as far as the start of the malecon (beach walk) and decided to walk the rest of the way along the ocean to the parada (bus stop) where the buses for the gardens leave. Along the way I told Jessica the stories that I could remember from the malecon art walk. Which I just realized I didn’t write about….ooops. Quickly…..
The malecon has several pieces of statuary, one at the end of each street that runs to the sea so as you walk a street parallel to the malecon, you can gaze down the cross streets and see the ocean with a piece of art in front of it. Every Tuesday afternoon, there is a sponsored art walk where the leader stops and tells stories at each piece. It was funny and informative. I only had my phone with me so didn’t take many pictures, but you can read more here until I get myself organized to write about it.
Back to the present – we made our way to the bus stop. This particular bus route is less traveled, so the bus leaves every 20-30 minutes instead of the usual maximum 10-minute wait. After boarding, we had a bit of a wait, which we filled in by buying and eating a piece of pizza from a vendor that boarded the bus to sell his wares.
We set off on the road that goes past the beaches of Mismaloya and Boca de Tomatlan, and all the big fancy houses. Up, up, up and around, around, around we went into the hills above Bahia Banderas. It’s about 20 – 30 minutes out of town into the jungle to reach the gardens.
The gardens are very nicely done and if you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend adding this to your trip itinerary. There are several organized areas of specific types of flowers with the requisite name plates and reading material, but most of the area is groomed walking/hiking trails through the jungle. The Hacienda de Oro is the main building, housing a restaurant, gift shop and offices. It overlooks a small valley with a fresh water river (or as we would call it back east, a crick) and we had the most delightful cool, fresh breeze as we enjoyed our lunches.
Yes, after eating pizza on the bus (which was Second Breakfast), we ate lunch. Twice. It was a lot of walking!
After wandering and before Second Lunch, we walked through the gift shop where we saw some beverage in a glass bottle priced at 1300 pesos (over $70 US). Intrigued by what nectar this could be Jessica, who speaks excellent Spanish thanks to the Navy and a two-year stint in Spain, quizzed the waiters about it.
We learned that the beverage, called raicilla (rye-SEE-ya) is similar to tequila in that it comes from the agave plant. Read more here, but know that making raicilla involves blue agave, wood, smoke, stones for grinding and possibly barrels for aging. The end product is not unlike a scotch in that it burns going down but if done well can be a very smooth drink. Or it can be firewater.
Even though their English was excellent, I think it’s a treat for them to speak their native language with gringos. They gave the whole description in Spanish, much of which I actually was able to follow. Second Lunch ended in the opportunity to taste two different raicillas from their bar, including a couple sips of the expensive one. Thank you Jessica and your fine Spanish!
Their description and the smoothness of the raicilla planted the seed for another day trip, but that’s another story. I’ll let the pictures finish telling this story.
More random flowers.
Black bean nachos, fruit plate and lemongrass iced tea (shared with Jessica as First and Second Lunches). The tea came with a stalk of sugar cane. I managed to chew the whole thing. It wasn’t really a stretch.
The Swinging Bridge – carved pineapples adorn both ends.