We earned the "Jungle Tour" by testing our patience with the Mayan Palace time-share peddlers. As I explained in my Mekong Delta journal, a tour guide can really make or break the experience for you. And, once again, our guide turned out to be a real pro, a well-spoken native of Vallarta with a good understanding of English. Part of his charm was the mispronunciation of certain words or the way he anglicized Spanish words. TB (stands for Transportes de la Bahia) Tours provided the buses and daily activity. So, let’s take the trip.
We were picked up at our hotel (bring a bathing suit, by the way) and headed over to the Fiesta Americana Hotel , where we got to play musical chairs. We were then introduced to Miguel, our guide, and Sergio, the driver. The bus is air-conditioned and fitted with comfortable seats and head rests. Part of the jungle tour is a stop at a huge jewelry store across the street from the Los ArcosHotel in the Zona Romantica. The sales staff is quite knowledgeable and very eager and keen to sell, especially since August is a very slow season for them. There is no doubt that this is a magnificent place to shop, whether for silver or other pieces. They have matching sets as well, including bracelet, choker, and earrings to die for! Ladies, come with pesos, or with someone willing to spend the pesos for you.
On tap was a slightly spiked lemonade for all. Allow for about 15 to 20 minutes in the store, and if you’re not into jewelry, you can always stay on the bus.
Miguel knows a lot about the area, and as we started to roll south, gave us some interesting facts to digest:
In Puerto Vallarta, nothing is privately owned (i.e. beaches, for example), as everything belongs to the government and, as an extension, to the public. Concha Chinas is considered the best residential area in the city; if you are interested in buying property, you may, but it cannot be within 20km from the ocean, nor 50km from the city line. Sixty percent (110 million people) of the population is Catholic. In the '70s, the economy was one of mostly farming and fishing, but that has now been overtaken by tourism. One can get around for very little in Puerto Vallarta on the public bus system; they run from 6am to 11pm. Flea market lovers will thrill at the fact that the Rio Cuale market spans 2km; ditch the heels!
We arrived at the Mismaloya junction, where the bus made a left turn and began going uphill. The road was terribly narrow, full of holes and with plunging drops to the floor of the rain forest. A sudden stop lays the bus in a slanted position, thankfully away from the ditch. One of the wheels got stuck in a mud hole, and we all clamored against trying to drive out of it. We also knew this was the end of the road for this bus, or for anyone else trying to get through.
We were not very far from Chino’s Paradise, so we hiked up the road to have a look. There were many workers re-thatching a roof, and as it had rained the night before, all the seats in the restaurant were wet and soiled. It was beautiful scenery nevertheless, especially the rush of the stream, which was quite shallow, and where a woman was hard at work laundering the tablecloths. We walked through El Eden, where the set to Schwarzenegger’s "Predator" is to be found. An abandoned and rusted helicopter was there to greet us, but not much more. We were anticipated to have gone swimming and "frolic" in the waterfall farther up but never made it.