Sunday, December 18, 2011 – Day 28 – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
I go on the horse riding excursion today – a nice way to get away from the commercialization of Puerto Vallarta. A bus takes us inland to an arid area behind Puerto Vallarta, where the real Mexicans live. There are no Walmarts, Home Depots or upscale shopping centres here…just little cafes beside the road with a few tables and dirt floors, and vendors barbecuing chicken beside the road, selling to the local families for their Sunday dinners.
We arrive at the hacienda and are assigned our horses based on our weight and skill level. I get a horse called “Grandpa” (“Abuelito” in Spanish). There are about thirty riders from the ship, so it is a good-sized group as we leave the corral single file and try to get used to our steeds (and them to us, no doubt). Grandpa seems to be very good at following the horse in front of him, and that suits me fine. We travel slowly across country similar to the dry and scrubby landscape I remember from La Enscenada Lodge ranch on the Gulf of Nicoya in Costa Rica. We cross the river twice, once where it is less than half a metre deep, and another point where it is probably about a metre deep. “Grandpa” is one of the bigger horses, so I don’t get my feet wet, while other riders do.
We have a rest stop after an hour, where there is a little cantina setup under a shade tree, with beer, pop and water for sale, and of course there are also bathrooms available. Some people have a dip in the nearby hot springs, while others ride one of the horses which likes to swim in the deeper part of the river. I just take it easy, take some photos, and then climb back on “Grandpa” for the return trip back to the hacienda.
The cruise ship harbour is located in a very central spot with spectacular towers on both sides of the harbour entrance, stretched along the sandy beachfront. A huge marina adjoins the harbour, which is chock full of speedboats and other pleasure craft no doubt owned by the gringos in the waterfront towers.