27 March-20 July 2013. In the previous post Don spoke of his relief to be leaving Myanmar, and that he didn’t know what was to come next. He felt completely done. What came next was four months in La Manzanilla by the sea to recover from nearly six months travelling around Southeast Asia and India.

Long-time friends Pam and Larry, who we hadn’t seen for years until last summer, rented us their casita. We’d seen pictures of the casita, but not of the town. We had no idea what it would be like although they had told us it was just a sleepy dusty little fishing village. We also had no idea how perfect it would be in so many ways. A huge blessing, and exactly what we needed.

La Manzanilla is on the west coast of Mexico about four hours south of Puerto Vallarta. Apart from the main road in the centre of the village it’s a dirt road town with a population of about 2000 Mexicans, and during the northern winter about 500 expats – mainly Canadians and Americans, though most of them left during our first month there.

The casita, a one-bedroom apartment, is the ground floor of a house that steps down a hill above the town. Almost the entire front wall of the living room opens up onto a patio, a pool and a beautiful view of a tropical garden, with the ocean in the distance. Trees filled with birds. Stunning sunsets every evening. Nothing to do all day except whatever we felt like doing.


At the bottom of the garden

These long seedpods grew on a tree right next to the pool and patio and dozens of black and yellow caciques would come every day to feed on them.

Ah, the tiny hummingbirds. They came to the orchid tree every day. They are such fierce territorial creatures. One day we even saw one chasing away a large bumblebee. This is my best shot. To get one on the wing – not even in my wildest dreams was that possible. Faster than a speeding bullet!

And the chachalacas! They are wild native turkeys. The noise they make is loud and frequent. Imagine the whiskey-and-cigarettes voice of Tom Waitts cackling and you’re getting close. Their name suits them.

Even though they’re large they can be hard to spot in the trees. One day Don called me to come outside quick, and there was a chachalaca on a clear branch with it’s tail spread. I grabbed my camera, raced outside and got the shot. The camera was on the wrong setting but here it is – a slightly blurred chachalaca with its tail up.

Don slept just about every afternoon for the first month there, as well as a good eight hours or more at night. I got ferocious about getting the blog caught up to date (whatever that means exactly – kind of like chasing my tail – I’ll never get there!) and after a couple of weeks realized that I really did have to let go and let it flow, and that if it didn’t come from love and creative inspiration it wasn’t worth doing. The letting go was mostly successful. I’d keep setting myself deadlines for this post and that post and the next post, and then catch myself being all wound up about it again, and again come back to presence, and letting go, and relaxing with it. Even so, getting to that last post of our India/Southeast Asia trip certainly feels like a milestone.

We discovered yoga classes with Karen within the first week and went to classes four days a week for just about the whole time we were there. It felt good to get stretched and fit again. Daniella was recommended to us for massage. And was she ever good. We had a weekly massage to get all those knots out of our tired muscles.

Karen’s pets. The beautiful blue-eyed cat often joined us for classes.

Also during the first week Larry drove us over the “goat trail” one night and that was enough to get us walking it most days – a forty minute hike up the hill and down the other side to the far end of the village – kind of like taking the long way into town and getting some exercise while we were at it. While we were at it we also got to see all kinds of reptiles, and brilliant birds, and brilliantly coloured houses.

I found this little guy sun bathing at the front gate one day

The view of La Manzanilla and Tenacatita Bay from the top of the goat trail

We arrived during Semana Santa, or Easter week, which is a time of important religious significance when various activities and events are held throughout the country. It is also a major vacation time and many Mexicans descend on La Manzanilla for a week of camping family fun at the beach and partying all night.

Doesn’t this make you want to just dive right into the water?

But we never did. We paddled a lot as we walked along the beach, many times, but all the swimming was done in our private pool. What luxury to have a warm pool of water steps from the door where a swimsuit was not needed and never worn. We would play like children in the pool almost every day. Leaves and seeds and other debris from the garden would blow in and Don would scoop it all off the surface and I would wear a mask and pretend like a dolphin and dive and dive and dive until I’d collected all the leaves and twigs from the bottom. Then swim a few laps while Don floated on the noodle. And every day we expressed how lucky and how grateful we were for the pool and the lovely apartment and this beautiful place to rest and recharge and enjoy.

We weren’t tourists there, we’d come to live there for a few months. A different way of being in a place. Even so I carried my camera everywhere. I used it far less than usual but did manage to capture some of the people of the town, and some who were on vacation from other parts of Mexico.

We met a little girl called Alegria. It means happiness or joy. What a lovely name for a girl. I know a woman who called her daughter Storm. Now there’s a name to live up to, or live down!

We had a social life in La Manzanilla! We went to Daniella and Dean’s place for a barbecue a couple of times. We had dinner several times with Claude and Linda, and met people through yoga which was always followed by coffee and a muffin at the only coffee shop in town, had dinner up at Maryann and Mike’s place with Robert and Jill who’d started a deli catering to all the expats, and were invited to a potluck on the beach one evening. Us! Social butterflys! Well that’s a bit of a stretch, though we did actually socialize quite a bit. But mostly we stayed home and I blogged and Don did travel research and read and watched Formula 1 races and the Tour de France on TV. Just like a normal life really, except we were in this, what felt like to us, incredibly luxurious place that we reveled in, and just about died with gratitude. And soaked up the warmth into our very bones.

Around town

Next post: the dripping days, weather changes, bank machines, and scorpions.

All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.