Mezcal, Stingrays and Crocodiles

During our brief stop in Puerto Vallarta we grabbed some provisions and spent a few days in the pool at an RV Park full of French Canadians.  The place was a bit more expensive than we liked, but had endless hot water, toilets with actual seats and a docile looking water-slide that would toss you like a corkscrew.  If I end up with back problems down the road I’ll be sure to attribute the problem, at least in part, to this feat of mexican engineering.  While in town I was also finally able to track down a marine store.  I had been searching for a Hawaiian sling and since the prices were comparable, I let my lack of experience tip the scale towards the easier spear gun. Here fishy fishy 🙂

After getting our fill of hot showers, pool time and water slide spinal adjustments, we said our goodbyes to Chris & Jenn and headed down the coast.  It would have been easy to go inland from Vallarta and start exploring central Mexico, but we weren’t quite ready to say goodbye to beach life.  We hadn’t been away from a coast since northern CA and needed a few more fish tacos, sandy sunsets, and hammock naps before we could leave the salty sea.

Mezcal:  Oven-Cooked Agave

We stopped for a night in some town that I can’t remember, spent the next morning walking the beach and continued down the coast.  On the dirt road to the beach we passed a tiny sign, hit the brakes and put it in reverse. We had found our first taste of Mezcal!!!  The curious and smokey cousin of Tequila with a worm in the bottle that will make you hallucinate, and is more effective than Viagra.  While most of this isn’t true, you decide which parts, we had been looking forward to trying some of Mexico’s specialty fire-water.

While sampling the goods we learned a lot, and while I’m no expert, I feel I’ve seen enough of the tasty liquid to pass on some learnin’.  To start, tequila is mezcal.  Think of mezcal as whiskey and tequila as bourbon. Essentially, tequila is tequila because it is produced in a certain region, to specific standards.  That being said, there are several different types of mezcal which are given their individual names based on how and where they are produced; with different types of agave as their common denominator.  The cooperative where we stopped offered both tequila and another type of mezcal called Raicilla.  This particular Raicilla was made organically, with wild green agave, and without the use of any metal..or so we were told.

The joven was unaged and unbarreled, the reposado barreled 6+ months, the anejo a year, and the anejado had been relaxing for several years.  We sampled just enough to convince us to put on the gringo-sombreros and bought a bottle to share among friends.  Before leaving I asked the guy why people don’t seem to know more about mezcal internationally.  His response – “You can’t teach people who drink Jose Cuervo nothing!”  Fair enough.  Now that you’ve learned a bit about mezcal from a guy who didn’t fact-check, feel free to spout and spread the information at will..the hipsters could use a new beverage to fuel their self-importance.

Tenacatita – Stingrays Are Jerks

With our precious mezcal tucked away, we headed for Tenacatita and found ourselves on an empty peninsula with a reef offshore…score!  Shortly after, our friends arrived and settled in next to us.  Unfortunately, they settled a bit too much.  The sand ended up being a lot deeper than we thought and they were also experiencing issues with their 4WD.  We dug for a bit with the shovels, attempted using the recovery tracks, and then adopted the work-smarter-not-harder approach – cold beer and head scratchin’.  With our recovery-strap, still covered in mud from Baja, and Pete’s tow strap combined, we were able to set the Tundra on solid ground and pull our friends out.  Mezcal celebration anyone???

We had calculated the amount of fish dinners I would need to provide to offset the cost of the spear gun so I figured I’d turn our little bay into a Red Lobster menu sooner than later.  How hard could this be?  Flip flop across the beach, get passed the break, clear my forever-foggy mask, try to pee, load the spear gun and let’s see what’s for dinner.  Blowfish, stingray, stingray, blowfish, stingray….Damnit!  The whole place was teeming with the spiny jerks.  After bobbing and weaving passed dozens I reached a bit of open space on the edge of the reef and pretended to know what I was doing.  Move like a fish, think like a fish, be-a-fish Josh.  The waves we’re pushing hard and with my floundering to avoid smashing into coral and the surrounding stingrays I was unable to achieve my fish-zen.

On my third trip across the inlet I found what I was looking for.  A big school of something large enough to hit.  I followed cautiously, think clumsily, from the side as they moved effortlessly with the ebb and flow of the water.  I was almost within range when one of the group headed my way.  Why had he left the group? Why come towards me? Tryin’ to be a tough guy eh?  I’d make him pay for his mistake.  Looking down the barrel I aimed, pulled the trigger, heard the water-muffled sound of the band’s release, and watched the sediment clear.  Spiraling dead at the end of my line was dinner.  Just had to whip up some cheddar-bay biscuits and we’d be eating good!

Back on shore I realized why the little guy had swam towards me; it was either very old or very sick and I was the easy way out.  It’s loose skin and questionable flesh colors were enough for us to pass on the fish dinner but at least the old sickly swimmer was in a better place…RIP little buddy.  I may have failed at providing rations for camp but at least I didn’t end up with a stingray barb straight through my foot like another guy on the beach.  I’ve heard the poison makes it hurt like hell and it definitely looked no bueno.

La Manzanilla – Cocodrilos!

La Manzanilla is a nice little beach town on the bay of Tenacatita.  Snow-birding Canadians and a handful of Europeans and Americans agree so the place is full of expats.  While in town, we could sense the influx of northern investors looking to find their own little piece of Mexico.

We also noticed some of the small things that appear when a Mexican town is transitioning into an expat or tourist town.  Maybe an Irish pub pops up, or they start to offer chipotle crema with the fish tacos, or people begin to complain about the crocodiles eating their dogs…jk…but seriously they have a problem.  This is one of the reasons why we chose to visit La Manzanilla.  Not to see crocs eating dogs of course, but to check out the hundreds of dino-lizards living in La Manzanilla’s crocodile sanctuary.

Before we even entered the “park” we noticed a perimeter fence in bad shape.  “Maybe this isn’t where the crocs live….yah, those holes are way too big…I mean, we’re in Mexico but that would be ridiculous…son-of-a-bee-sting there’s a croc right there!”  With a renewed sense of faith in the security measures taken to ensure our keeping-of-limbs, we paid our 1-ish USD entrance fee and ventured into the sanctuary (All four of you needy blog-subscribers better appreciate the risks we take to get you these pictures!).

A video posted by Josh & Jenna (@travelamateurs) on

I’ve seen videos where crocs lurch half of their body out of the water to snatch a piece of raw chicken.  I don’t think the fellas who designed this sanctuary had seen those videos, so we sipped our beers and strolled the park on a walkway that was only about a foot or two above the water.

After checking out some live music one night we started our walk back to camp in the dark.  One end of town is separated from the other by a temporary dirt bridge.  On the west side you have a shallow inlet of water which leads to the ocean.  The other side, also water, is adjacent to the croc sanctuary.  Since there is no fence or barrier to speak of we assumed that this side of the land bridge was somehow separated from the croc water…wrong again.  As we used the light from Jenna’s iPhone to navigate our way home, we approached the bridge.  Jokingly I mentioned the scary crocs waiting to eat us only to find four golden eyes and two wet snouts following our moves.

At this point we were already on the bridge with about three baby feet of tapered bank and maybe four tiny, minuscule, unprotected yards of flat ground between us and the crocs.  I thought…they’ll probably sweep it under the rug: “Drunk Americans killed playing with crocs.”  I’m supposed to be kidnapped and killed by the cartel, not a damn dinosaur!  Whether they were pescatarians or had bellies full of local pets, we’re happy they didn’t choose us for dinner.  We spent the rest of our walk pointing out the holes in the security fence, recounted our almost-croc-snack experience with Natasha and Pete and fell asleep to the sound of the ocean, with all of our limbs.

By |2017-03-22T08:10:27-06:00July 5th, 2016|Mexico, The Trip|8 Comments


  1. Rhonda July 6, 2016 at 10:26 am - Reply

    This made me laugh thinking of a bar in Siem Reap Cambodia that was of truly sketchy construction with multiple platform levels (sans guard rails of course) and to get to the bathroom you had to walk across a thinish plank of wood with no rails over an alligator pit. Travel = good times 😉

    • Jenna July 8, 2016 at 7:09 pm - Reply

      hahaha sounds terrifying! Our taco and cerveza filled bellies would have made a tasty snack for the lil’ gators. 😉

  2. Randy Coker July 7, 2016 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    I see the term CROCs has a new meaning……are those flip flops that you show in the picture considered crocs…….hence the photo of the croc under them?

  3. Eric July 7, 2016 at 4:56 pm - Reply

    “…figured I was the easy way out.” Death by Joshy

    • Josh July 9, 2016 at 11:38 am - Reply

      Haha…if he knew my aim he’d have gone with a better option.

  4. Natasha and Pete July 20, 2016 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    Ohhhh….we miss Mexico. Great post and photos once again guys! Love the shot of Malta and I at sunset:) You just made us LOL with your mezcal/hipster comment. Hope all is well!

    • Jenna July 23, 2016 at 10:08 pm - Reply

      We miss Mexico and our beach sunsets with you guys!! Travel safe and hope to see you guys soon.

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