Another Epic Planet Ronda Adventure

It's been a long time since I've done any traveling, but I recently had the opportunity to take a weekend trip to the Pacific Ocean.

Since Denny Crane is my constant companion, I had to find a place willing to accept pets. In Mexico, dogs are garage alarm systems for the most part. They are not trained. They don't have yards. They don't have human companionship. This does not apply to all Mexican dogs of course, but for the vast majority, that is the case. The tiny pets people do keep inside the house also bark from the windows and balconies and rooftops. So needless to say, no one has ever seen a trained dog like Denny Crane and because of that, nobody accepts him sight unseen.


I looked for days to try to find a place all up and down the coast within a reasonable driving time. I wanted 1 special thing wherever it was I stayed, instead of just changing to another apartment like mine. I was looking for anyplace that had just one of the following: a pool, carpeting, a bathtub, ocean view, ocean front.


I searched AirBnB, hotels.com, booking.com, kayak.com, and hotel chains like Hilton, Marriott, Wyndham, and IHG.


By the time Saturday morning rolled around I was no less close to booking anyplace. But I tried once more for a half hour to find someplace and happened upon an AirBnB property owned by a couple from California. Even though they posted that they don't accept pets, I at least knew I had a chance to stay since they would have been exposed to well trained dogs, so I sent my message off asking if it would be possible 2 days starting that day.


I heard back within an hour that the owner would have to ask the owner. I was confused, but replied graciously. I thought maybe the wife needed to ask the husband, because it clearly said in the posting that they were the owners of the property.


After a back and forth for an hour or so, I finally got the okay so hurriedly finished packing (I had prepacked a bit just in case) and headed toward un unknown location in the publicly advertised, middle of nowhere.


Of course, as soon as I started the trip went from 3.5 hours to 4.5 hours. Just a half hour ahead of me, a major accident had happened, forcing traffic off the only highway heading west, and onto local 2-lane roads. I was in a good mood though, and didn't mind the "scenic" detour. And it wasn't long before I was back on the main highway, heading toward a fantastic weekend.


If you have been following my blog for any length of time, you will know that I've consistently had car trouble after coming to Mexico. In the last year I had to order a brand new AC compressor for my car from the US and have it shipped to me in Mexico. Believe it or not, it was significantly cheaper than all of the used AC compressor I and the mechanic were able to find in all of Mexico. After the last big set of repairs, about 9 months ago, the temperature ran a bit hotter than previously, but I was affirmed and reaffirmed that nothing was wrong and that if I ran my AC all the time, that would be best as it would keep the car cooler all around.


So that is what I have done ever since, run the AC if I was going very far at all or if it was hot, and it had been doing exactly as it was supposed to do. My car and I have been both happily kept cool.


Until I tried to drive further than 2.5 hours at one time. Yes, I had done trials to make sure the repairs were holding up for the AC and oil and coolant repairs. All of them had succeeded.


The drive west of Guadalajara is fast highway for a couple of hours and then turns into two lane, twist and turn, traffic clogging highways. I got stuck behind a semi truck trying it's best to not fall off the sides of the roads, going as slow as possible. The sun was setting on his brake pedal.


I finally had a chance to get around when we made it to a tiny town with a mile of four lane road. The sun was almost gone and I was getting very nervous because the instructions I'd been given said the end of the trip was on a dirt road with no light. I had been trying to get there before the sunlight all disappeared.


The instructions were seemingly quite easy to follow. They listed a turn off the highway where I'd find an entrance to the complex with a gate and someone waiting for me. I'd follow some cobblestone that would turn into dirt and I'd drive another 2 km until I reached the condo. Ok. That's not hard, right?


WRONG!


Actually, the biggest mistake wasn't mine. It was with the owner of the AirBnB, but I'll get to that later.


I had Google maps up and showing the destination and the route and was diligently following along. The sun was now gone but we were only another half hour out, or so I thought.


I turned off the main highway onto a side road (which was in the instructions, but mind you, without any street names) and followed it a few miles to the turnoff. It was a short drive to the gate and there was a man waiting the

for me and I said (in Spanish) that I was there for so and so's AirBnB. The guy said ok and I asked if it was at the bottom of the drive or what? He said just follow the road. So I did. It was cobblestone, just like in the instructions. I drove that for about a mile and then the cobblestone changed to dirt (also the very fancy houses disappeared), just like in the instructions. According to the instructions I was supposed to keep going for another 2 km and it would be very dark and then I'd arrive at the condo. Zooming out on Google maps also confirmed that to be the case. I was headed in the right direction.


But whoa!


That dirt road is not the same kind of dirt road I grew up on (yes, I grew up in the rural countryside of the US) and was really a test for my Alero. But she persevered and pushed up steep rocky hills and sharp turns, through ditches and around gulches. It was honestly hard to tell there was actually a road in some places. And it was pitch black.


But according to Google maps, I was getting closer to the destination and the instructions fit perfectly, although I wasn't sure how I'd ever leave once I arrived.


Still I drove on until I reached a ditch I knew I couldn't pass. When I stopped the car, a horrendous noise started projecting. I turned off the car to let her cool down and stared at my phone wondering what in the world to do. The instructions had included a phone number for the gate keeper so I called. No answer. Called again. Still no answer.


There was absolutely no possible way of continuing so I messaged the AirBnB host that I was lost and needed help because the person they'd directed me to call wasn't answering. After not receiving a reply for about 5 minutes, I backed my way out of the road.


Now, once upon a time, I drove a very heavy and full trailer into Mexico behind my car and multiple times I've towed UHauls in the US so I have significant experience backing up and can do so quite effectively. Boy am I glad I had all that practice prior because there was NO LIGHT (except from my tail lights)!


I can't really describe, adequately, the condition of the "road". It honestly didn't look used and had it not been for the instructions fitting it so well and the destination fitting in Google maps, I would never had attempted it.


After regressing to the cobblestone and then to the gate, I asked the guy again, but this time with the name of the condo. He said he didn't know it and it wasn't inside where I'd driven. Good grief. Again, I turned off my car because, idling, the racket was terrifying. Turning off the AC got rid of the noise, but something was seriously very wrong. I wasn't sure how long my car would go because I didn't know what was wrong with her.


Now I was really lost. I'd clicked on the map link in the instructions for the AirBnB so I hadn't mistyped it or anything.


I returned to the highway and parked.


I was frustrated.

I was angry.

I was helpless.

I was afraid.

I was homeless.

I was hungry.


While parked and letting the car cool down (without the AC running the car was overheating), I popped the hood and indeed the AC was not working and in fact, when turned on, it was killing the motor. Ugh. Bad bad bad timing.


I still didn't know where I was going to be spending the night either since I couldn't find the destination and no one had responded.


And I was starving. I'd eaten breakfast, but that was a long time ago. Because I'd been trying to reach the AirBnB before dark, I had put off stopping for anything en route.


While perusing the tiny stand I'd stopped in front of on the highway (because there was a street light over it), I bought some mini bananas, a bag of potato chips, and a bag of peanut brittle for supper.


The 'owner' of the AirBnB finally called me in answer to my panicked pleas on the messaging app.


This is the key to the whole arrival trip:


SHE F**KING KNEW THAT GOOGLE MAPS WOULD SEND ME TO A DEAD END, UNPASSABLE ROUTE, AND NEVER INCLUDED THAT INFORMATION IN THE INSTRUCTIONS!


To say I was miffed puts it mildly...


So after as calm (I'm proud of how calm and cordial I remained on the phone) a conversation I could have asking her what the street names were so that I could arrive without using Google maps, I headed out again, in complete blackness.


I was aware that they were now waiting for me because I was late from the estimated arrival time (I place 100% of the blame for that on the AirBnB owners), so instead of going to a restaurant for linner (lunch+dinner), I proceeded the next half hour down a two lane highway to a cobblestone road, to a dirt road, to a gate with a man waiting, to the condo, finally.


The drive from the highway was long enough and I dragged bottom on the rocks so much that I didn't dare regress for a real dinner. I had mini bananas, a bag of potato chips, and a bag of peanut brittle...


Checked in, unloaded the car (I read that there was a dryer included in the rental so I had brought all my laundry with hopes of being able to enjoy soft sheets, towels, and clothes for one round), started a load of laundry, and collapsed on the sofa. I was sweaty, tired, hungry, and did I mention hungry?


May I personally not recommend a combination of mini bananas with peanut brittle. You'd think it'd be a good combination but it's not. And as hangry as I was, the bag of chips was so stale I couldn't bare it.


The listing said that a washing machine and dryer were included, but they were really communal. Sigh. So I had to stay unshowered and dressed to finish the two loads I started. (At least there were 4 machines.)


About an hour went by of me trying to decide if I peanut brittle or mini bananas was more filling before I went to check on my laundry. IT HADN'T STARTED!


Yes, I had started the machine. Yes, I had waited to make sure the water started running. No, nothing else happened. So once I saw that it hadn't progress from that point, I had the pleasure of standing there watching it fill up to make sure it was really going to run, and an hour later.... Again, Ronda was not happy.


For reference, mini bananas are a better choice when hangry.


Denny Crane was in a new place and I'm sure he could sense my variety of negative emotions, and without any light other than inside the condo, I couldn't find any grass for him. We walked around a while with the light of my flashlight but I could only find desert plant/99s in "gardens" of dirt and rock. I felt so bad for him as he had been such a good boy holding it the whole trip and now there was no nice place for him to even sniff around. Needless to say, he wasn't a happy boy and chose to wait until the next day, just adding to my anxiety.


After complaining for another hour about how tired, hungry, unsatisfied, sweaty, and worried about Denny Crane I was, I went back to check on the laundry again. Whew, it was done. The long time standing around waiting for it to fill was worth it. Now to put it in the driers.


After the clothes and towels were transferred to the driers, I went back to continue my unhappy course of deciding what was worse to eat for dinner and finally decided to check online for some emails that had come through. I looked all over the AirBnB and there was no note of the wifi code and the wifi router was on the ceiling so I had no chance of checking it for a code. So I messaged the AirBnB lady again, asking for the wifi code. I was fortunate she was up so late because I didn't really expect her to be. But she responded quickly and I signed on. Only to find out that the internet was so slow that it couldn't even open my email.


To say I wasn't having a good night was an understatement by this point.


An hour passed by of me taking a flashlight and trying to figure out what was wrong with my car while on the phone with a mechanic in the US. Then after coming to the conclusion that the practically brand new AC compressor that I had purchase was completely shot. After an hour of losing signal, shouting into the phone, trying to run around the car on cobblestones with a flash light and do long distance tests, I quit for the night.


It was time to go check my laundry. You guessed it! The clothes and towels were sopping wet. The driers had run with no heat or someone had shut them off, I'll never be sure, but the thing for certain is that nothing was even slightly dry.


I'd had it. I took everything dripping wet out of the driers and returned it to the couches in the AirBnB where I finally showered and went to bed....knowing I had nothing to eat for breakfast the next morning except the rest of the mini bananas and peanut brittle.


For reference, mini bananas are no better for breakfast when starving than they are for dinner the night before when hangry.


At least I was showered and had slept and I woke up to a most wonderful sense of the ocean. It was invisible the night before because there were no lights, not even outside the condominium for security. But in the morning light, the ocean was invisible still because of all the clouds and fog over it. So I took in the fresh salt sea air, the fresh crisp temperature, and walked back to get the laundry to put it back in the dryer. After putting it back in the driers, I made my self a cup of tea (I had had the fortunate foresight to bring a few bags with me), grabbed a few mini bananas and headed out to the large communal patio with an incredible pool to wait for the laundry to dry.



I needed to eat a real breakfast, but was unsure what to do about my car. Breakfast was more important though, so I drove the (much shorter) distance in the daylight to the highway, where I stopped at literally the first restaurant I saw. I wouldn't go back to that restaurant, but at the time I was definitely hungry enough to chow down. Then it was straight back to the condo to check the laundry and the car.


Denny Crane still hadn't calmed down enough to go to the bathroom, even though in the early morning I had searched further afield and found a nice, lovely patch of good grass. So after breakfast I tried again and this time, as I was walking around with him in my arms, the owners of the condo came walking toward me. They had a dog on a leash with them. Now remember, I had asked them specifically if I could have Denny Crane because the listing stated that no pets were allowed on property. Their dog was the second I'd seen as the people in the condo above me also had a Dachshund. I was thoroughly confused and quite frustrated. I didn't bring up the topic though and the owners proceeded to go directly from, Hi, We're so and so, to, You better be picking up after your dog. I assured them I had a doggy bag and didn't need one, which was true. But I was not impressed at the accusatory conversation. Then they told me it was not okay to carry Denny Crane around. He had to be on a leash at all times because there are other animals on the property.


But didn't it say no animals were allowed on property?


I was so confused and very angry, but just said ok and moved on. After that confrontation, I was in no mood to explore more, so I turned around to head back to the condo. While walking back, the owner literally shouted at me from the third story balcony to move my car. When I drove in the night before, I asked the guy that showed the way where to park and he literally pointed to where I was parked. It looked like a pass through, so after I parked I asked again, is this a parking place? He assured me that, yes, it is. Okie dokie.


If the owner had come down to say that the gate guy had been mistaken, I would have been a lot more pleasant, but to be yelled at from the 3rd floor balcony across the entire entry way that I was the one that had made the error was just infuriating. Still, I moved my car to where he indicated.


The night before was scary with the loud noises and motor shutting down, so I went to check out the car in the daylight. What on earth could I do? It was a Sunday. There were no mechanics open. Monday was a federal holiday so no mechanics would be open then either and I was supposed to drive back Monday anyway. Upon closer inspection, indeed, the AC compressor was most definitely not working and causing my motor to die. So that was disconnected for future safety while driving. Another noticeable problem, however, was that neither fan was coming on. I had no idea why not.


Luckily, someone was able to rig a force in the fuse box that when inserted into the relay, turned on both fans. That was the only way to keep the car cool enough driving as slowly as I had to around the small towns and dirt roads. So before a drive, insert 'the force' and upon arrival, remember to remove it or the battery will probably be dead upon return to the car.


It was mid afternoon by the time I realized that one of the driers didn't put out hot air and I had moved my towels to another drier, and the issue to make my car drivable was resolved.


Now it was time to try and enjoy just a little bit of sightseeing. There wasn't anything near the condo, so back in the car and off to the 1st pueblo about a half hour away. It was literally a main street and dirt side roads with a smelly and dirty beach. Luckily for me, it was smelly enough that Denny Crane found it bathroom worthy! Hooray! There were several local artists that had done murals on the sides of various homes and businesses and I enjoyed them. I did not get any pictures as I was headed out to try to get to the next beach a little further down the road at the next pueblo before the sun set.



Only another 15 minutes down the road and I arrived to a much bigger town with a distinct tourist section. The beach was miles long and filled with families and vendors. And across from the calm ocean waves were the hotels lined up one after the other. I found a mariachi trio playing Norteño music across from a public hotel restaurant so I stopped and sipped a couple shots of Maestro Doble Tequila while I enjoyed the music. Just by coincidence, the sun also set during the time I sat and enjoyed the music so I was able to watch the sunset, sipping a very tasty tequila, while listening to fun music. There was a happy Ronda for a time.



I didn't want to eat dinner there as I'd already googled a dinner spot that had a bleu cheese hamburger. Years ago I enjoyed bleu cheese atop my petite filet mignon on cruise ships. I wanted that taste again so I headed out to the beach and walked another half mile or so to the exit up to the streets. The restaurant was on the corner of the first street just off the beach and it was filled, I kid you not, with Americans. I knew I was going to enjoy my bleu cheese hamburger!


And indeed I did! Wow was it tasty. The bleu cheese was melting everywhere and my fingers were covered in it. I just licked it off and soaked up my fries in the rest. The restaurant also had the same tequila I'd been sipping on the beach, but at double the price so I opted for a cheaper one. By the time I left there was a waiting line to get in. Yes, the hamburgers were everything Google said they were!


The sun was down and I was contentedly full, so it was time to head back to the condo again at night. At least this time I had been down the road during the day so I had a better idea of what to expect. It wasn't nearly so bad this time. Unfortunately I knew I needed to return and do some basic packing as the next morning I had to leave.


On the walk back to the car I had hope to see a churro stand. I walked and walked and saw crepe stand after crepe stand. Seriously, did I miss the France memo? When did crepes become the street dessert instead of churros? I walked the entire length of the town and saw not a single churro stand, so I stopped at the last crepe stand for a to-go dessert. When I got around to eating it I enjoyed it. Was not too sweet and not too big. It was just right :) Although it was no churro!


I decided it was definitely not worth it to do any more laundry even though I had multiple loads left. I went to dry the towels in the machine I knew that worked (and was fortunately free at the time) and went to pack.


The next morning I woke up, made a cup of tea, and walked out to enjoy it from the patio with a view of the ocean. It was a splendid view, untouched by other buildings or civilization. As I stood there sipping my tea and soaking in the morning sun, the husband of the owner "team" approached me. He asked if I might want to stay longer and check out late in the afternoon. Oh, yes please! He explained that because I'd had such a difficult time finding the place and arrived so late the first night they were willing to extend my stay a few hours. No one was checking in after me so there wasn't an urgency to clean my particular condo. I wholeheartedly accepted.


After finishing my tea I returned to change into hiking clothes and made my way through the orchard down toward the beach. It was a steep decline and I carried Denny Crane on my back. I reached a road that looked familiar. Yes, I had indeed driven through part of this landscape the night I arrived. I couldn't believe it. It looked even worse in the day. How had I managed?! I still don't know and am just glad my car and me survived. She's stalwart.



I hiked along the road until I reached the bricked part that led to the gated entrance. There another guard berated me for having walked through the "community". I was not allowed to return the way I had come. No matter, he pointed me to another trail through the woods, up and over the mountain. Or at least he pointed me in the direction of said trail.


I continued on my way toward the beach and town that I was aiming for. I stepped out of the jungle and onto the beach. It was quite amazing. I'm sure all the people on the beach thought it strange as I hiked along in my hiking gear while they sat and played in their bathing suits. I didn't mind. The breakfast spot I was hoping to find was on the opposite side of the beach so I walked the short length of it and found a delightful breakfast spot. The restaurant was complete with views of a hidden bay and good food. I wanted to finish my breakfast with a cup of coffee and just stay there and sip it looking out at the ocean, but I had to get back. I didn't know how long it would take to return because I had to return a different way than I came.




I chose to walk along the "main" street back to the jungle. The town is only 4 or 5 blocks long so it didn't take much time and I was back in the jungle. It was so nice to be in nature after living in the concrete jungle of Guadalajara with the parks that are bordered by cars racing by on busy streets and filled to the brim with people and activities.


I walked back to the turn off point and turned to try and find the "new" trail head I'd been told about. Just my luck, it was uphill. I couldn't see any trail head so up the hill I went. Just past the top of the hill I saw a small entry. Hoping this was the correct path (at least it was going the right way), I headed in.


It was a beautiful trail. Single file with jungle trees, leaves, sounds, and not a sign of civilization. It wasn't long before I reached another road. I check on Google maps and it didn't make any sense to take the road as the condo was directly ahead so I crossed the road and continued onto the path.


That path didn't go very far before it forced me to really rely on my spidy senses. All my training of trail hunting and sense of direction came into play. The trail disappeared off and on and sometimes split into various possibilities. Upon one trail investigation a black snake (I say black because that was the color but I have no idea if that is what it actually was or not) about 10 feet long (it was well longer than I am tall) was rather surprised by my presence and hurriedly scurried from one side of the trail to the other. We were both happy to not engage with the other.



I had picked the correct trail so it was onward and upward. After reaching the top of the hill, the view opened from a covered jungle into an open orchard and the trail completely died. Fantastic. I needed to get back and I had no idea where I was. No matter. I forged ahead now jumping at every black water hose lying in the grass for the orchard trees.


At the end of one orchard there was a small gulley and another began. There were truck tire trails to follow in the new orchard so I followed them until they disappeared again. As I kept walking in the direction I knew I needed to go, I saw unfinished buildings that had been left for the animals. It was a weird place.


Then, all of a sudden, a truck went by up above, on a road I couldn't yet see. Wow! Civilization!


I climbed up to the road and I kid you not, my car was not 500 feet from where I stood.


Somehow I had managed to walk through the jungle and the orchards to the edge of the parking lot of the condo. I'm not sure I could repeat that again if I tried, but I was so happy to see my car and with just a half hour to spare, I stripped down to my bathing suit and plunged into the gorgeous pool. I swam two laps, soaking in as much of the luxury and coolness of the water as I could before jumping out and heading to finishing packing the car with the last minute items. I didn't shower for days, enjoying the lingering scent and touch of the water lapping against my hot skin from the days trek.



"The force" was put in place and off we went back to Guadalajara. I was a bit concerned as I knew there would be a bit of a climb leaving the water level, but it wasn't bad and my car plugged along well. Since we were north of Puerto Vallarta, we beat the crowd and had smooth and fast sailing (except for one toll booth that was broken down) back to GDL for dinner.


Unfortunately it was back to getting a new AC compressor and fixing all the other issues that had occurred, but the adventure had been one for the books (or the blog)!


I'm not sure I'll ever go back to that condo (at least not in my car). But I did enjoy the solitude and beauty that I so miss living in the big city.


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