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7th February, 2017

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

It has been 28 years since I have been to ‘PV’ and I have to say that I recognised nothing on my return. The changes in this favoured holiday destination of the North Americans have, apparently, been astronomical as has been the population which has increased 100% year on year since the 60’s.

With this fact in mind we opted to take a trip, not to any tourist hot spot, but to the ‘Jardín Botánico de Vallarta’, noted in the excursion brochure as one of the top ten gardens in North America; we were not to be disappointed. First though, we had an entertaining coach ride through the town, our driver seemingly working on the principle of ‘might is right’, as he negotiated the traffic. Once clear we headed for the foothills of the Sierra Madre and his ability to maintain a ‘pedal to the metal’ stance in rounding 90 degree bends was somewhat impressive. He only missed seeing a sleeping policeman traffic calmer once, fortunately little had been placed in the overhead rack. On arrival at the narrow gated entrance of the garden he proved his skill by making a right angle turn across the highway and backing down through to the parking lot in double quick time.

The two hours spent at a gentler pace was a garden enthusiast’s delight. The main building just hung with many different colours of Bougainvillea, and the orchid house was superb. Mrs R and I left the main party in order to explore the trails on our own and without a map, which in theory was probably not wise, but turned out to be quite exciting. The ‘Jaguar’ trail took us down to the river and then back up through a wooded valley with plenty of twists and turns. At times the path was less than a few feet wide, with steep drops disappearing into tropical vegetation. No health and safety railings or chicken wire covered boardwalks here. Great fun.

Eventually we found ourselves back at ‘base’ and took coffee upstairs on an open balcony while watching a variety of multi coloured birds landing onto feeders hung out from the building. The inevitable retail opportunity had nothing we actually needed, except a four foot cocoa plant which I felt might look good in the conservatory. I was advised otherwise. So we came away with just photographs, and the knowledge that much needs to be done to improve our very own orchid collection back in Cornwall.        

The return journey was broken by a stop at a viewing area that took in the entire bay and the numerous tall hotels that have been built over the intervening years. Vallarta is no longer the sleepy place it was when ‘Night of the Iguana’ was filmed there back in the early 60’s.

Captain Philip Rentell

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