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Horseback riding is harder than it looks...

...and other stories about how we spent our Christmas vacation

semi-overcast 27 °C

Some random thoughts this time around - ghosts of Christmas' past, ghosts of Sayulita's past, the joy of hanging out with your family, and the things I will remember most about Sayulita. It is unlikely we will be here again - we are not limited by time anymore and there are so many other places to visit. For the past eight years, Sayulita has meant a lot to us, and like many good things, our time here has come to an end.

Christmas. Stephen has been under the weather for a few days now, and sadly, he was unable to come out with us for Christmas dinner. Dan and I went to a little place called Tierra Viva, and were given a great table with a perfect street view. We shared calamari, rosemary shrimp and vegetarian lasagna and chatted with people at the tables close by. No turkey dinner, but a very warm and enjoyable way to spend Christmas.

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Horseback riding. Dan went horseback riding twice last year in Sayulita, and I spent a fair bit of time feeling regretful that I hadn't made the effort to be a better sport and join him. I promised this year would be different. Mexicans are superb riders, and the sweet horses they have for the tourists (the majority of whom are non-riders) appear well-mannered and docile. When I saw a guide lead out a woman with her two young kids on their own horses, and a toddler riding in front of her, I felt reassured.

I've always been nervous around horses, and every last one of them I've ever encountered has used that to their advantage. I've ridden about a dozen times in my life, with one of two outcomes - I would either fall off, or languish in one spot while my horse grazed, oblivious to my feeble yanks at the reins. Finally, I gave up riding, feeling there were more amusing ways to terrify and humiliate myself. Dan, on the other hand, is a natural. He is a real animal lover and hopped up onto the saddle without a qualm.

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Our group, led by our guide Beto, consisted of a couple of men, their two sons, Dan and myself, and a woman with her six-year-old daughter. My horse, Panino, was the tallest, and once I was rather ungracefully pushed/pulled/stuffed up and onto the saddle, I felt as though I was straddling a two-storey building. I went into total panic mode, but both Steve and Dan talked me into staying put, and knowing I would feel so ashamed of myself if I didn't go through with it, I concentrated on my breathing while the rest of the riders saddled up. Once we started, I began to relax, although "relaxing' was not how I would describe the experience, and I'm not sure I will go riding again. For one hour, I clung to the pommel for dear life, and every time Panino showed any signs of moving beyond a plod, I pulled back and yelled out "oh, oh", as instructed. I'm quite sure my poor horse was cursing his luck at getting the old gringo lady, when he could have had so much more fun with one of the feisty boys. Still, a memorable experience, even though my legs are still bruised from gripping the saddle, and my kneecaps hurt for more than a day.

Panino making his sure-footed way down a steep path.

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People dream of riding along beaches like this. Some of them even encourage their horses to canter.

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While we're on the topic of animals, last year Alanna fell in love with a filthy, tousled little mutt down the street, appropriately named Scrappy. She bought food for him and would visit him most mornings in the ballfield where he hung out with his other doggie amigos. He actually belongs to the family who run the adventure tour company in town, so this time around, I dropped by to see if Scrappy was still around. A young woman brought me around the back where the family was sitting, and explained why I was looking for their little dog. Sure enough, there he was, sound asleep by their feet. The older lady remembered Alanna - I'm guessing not too many other tourists were interested in this little floor mop. Alanna, I think he needs some of your TLC - Mexico is not the land of pampered pooches.

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Beach life figures prominently here - morning walks, sunset walks, swimming, boogie boarding, surfing, standup paddle boarding, kayaking. Beyond the beach walks, Stephen and I are quite content to park ourselves under an umbrella and Swim. Read. Nap. Repeat.

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Dan prefers to wade right in. This surf was a little challenging - when it is this rough, I sit it out.

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No end of beach dogs to play with. These two boys have a third brother somewhere. Three St. Bernards stand out on a beach filled with pitbull crosses, min pins and chihuahuas. Come to think of it, three St. Bernards stand out anywhere.

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Dan rented a standup paddle board on two different days.

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After a quick lesson (tuck your paddle under your tummy, lie down on the board, paddle out with your hands to get past the wave break, up on your knees, then on to your feet and go). I'm guessing this requires core strength.

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The fun didn't stop there. Dan tried zip lining at a site just a few minutes out of town. Run by the same folks who have Scrappy, it is a beautiful setting, and by the looks of it, well maintained and checked for safety. We were not along to take photos, but Dan managed to grab a couple of shots.

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We headed out of Sayulita a couple of times for day trips - first to Puerto Vallarta, about an hour south of us. Steve and I stayed in PV 38 years ago, and it was a quaint tourist destination then. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor's love nest was one of the biggest attractions. Puerto Vallarta today bears no resemblance - the emphasis today really seems to be on the hustle. Two or three times a week massive cruise ships spill out thousands of tourists onto the malecon, which is a delightful boardwalk along the bay, lined on one side with sculptures.

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A non-stop assault by vendors begins at the start of the malecon, and continues throughout streets, at outdoor restaurants and on the beach. The storefronts are no better - 2x1 margaritas, 30% off merchandise at SeƱor Frog's, and signs on restaurants like the one below solicit both the hangover and the cure. It becomes exhausting and off-putting.

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This cheek-by-jowl lineup of tables line many of the main beaches. The best swimming beaches are further south, but the area immediately in the old town area of PV is packed. After a few hours, we were ready to go.

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A few days later, we drove north about 15 minutes to San Francisco, known locally as San Pancho. Home to a well-known polo club, San Pancho is still very Mexican, and proud not to be Sayulita, although all signs point to that level of development happening within a few years. For now, it is delightful, eclectic, and fun to spend a few hours visiting.

This mural in the plaza portrays the history of San Pancho.

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A most impressive tree and root system - common in Mexico. I would love to know the name - anyone?

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great little cafe on the main street

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Beach entrance

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Danny joined in for pickup soccer with a dad and his two boys

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I'll leave you with some images that sum up the best of Sayulita for us. We take Dan to the airport tomorrow - so sad to see him go. We'll stay on for another three days, and then our travelling adventure begins. I'll check in again from Taxco, silver capital of Mexico - in less than week.

An iguana, coming down to take a piece of banana on a stick.

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Steve and Danny on a hike

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The lifeguard, hauling in kids from the water on a very surf-y day

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Ricardo, our lovely friend at Coffee on the Corner.

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Hula-hooping on the beach.

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Stephen and Dan, taking a break on a beach walk

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Happy New Year to you all!

Posted by millerburr 06:15 Archived in Mexico

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Comments

Wonderful Christmas letter! Thank you. I know that horse. He summers in the Grand Canyon and gallops whenever a grey haired woman climbs aboard. Good for you and Happy New Year.

by Nancy Huot

Great images and stories, happy new year x L and D

by DAVE N LAUREEN

So sorry to hear Steve was under the weather - hope that is no longer the case. I had to laugh when I read about your experience with Panino, as I have had a similar experience myself. I guess no one will ever take a picture of us galloping along a beach with our hair flying and a radiant smile on our face ... oh well, such is life!

by Heather

Enjoyed the read and photos. Have fun on your adventures and be safe!
Happy New Year!

by Cindy Burr

Fantastic photos that perfectly complement your chronicle. I must say, you and Dan look quite regal & natural on those horses! Looking forward to hearing where the trail takes you next - what a great way to ring in 2016. xo

by Alexandra

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