Town of Yelapa, December 26th 2002.

I woke up at oh-dark-hundred hours on the morning after Xmas and drove through the dark and the cold and the rain to the airport. It was difficult to believe that I might spend the evening in tropical Mexico. I took a shuttle from SkyPark to the San Francisco Airport, an Airplane to Puerto Vallarta, and another shuttle to Boca Tomatlan (called simply "Boca" by all the locals). This was where the road turned inland and the only way to proceed was by panga. I arrived just as one of these boats was about to leave. Without time to re-arrange my luggage I waded through the mouth (boca) of the river, waded through a few feet of surf, and climbed into the back of a panga that roared off into the Pacific Ocean.

A woman named Mimi translated the panga captain's Spanish for the benefit of us English speaking Gringos. ("Sit in the back of the boat and the ride will be smoother!") I asked if she lived in Yelapa and if she knew a family named Gortinsky. Never heard of them, even after I told the story of Konstantin's son marrying a local girl in Yelapa, a fancy wedding with the groom arriving at the church on a white horse, etc. etc. After stopping at several other bays to drop off or pick up locals with chickens in their laps we arrived at the pier in Yelapa.

Resting near the pier I tried asking several other locals about the Gortinsky family with no luck. There wasn't time to assemble my kayak and paddle off into the wilderness so at 5:30 PM I arranged to rent (for entirely too much money) a "palapa" for the evening. In the morning I would paddle around the bay looking for Konstantin. Failing to find him I would paddle off into the sunset and camp on the beach for 4 nights. With the addition of two gallons of water I was self sufficient for 4 days.

I sat in front of my palapa reading a book and trying to build up my confidence to go searching for a restaurant. Konstantin and Linda walked by! As I quickly learned, EVERYONE in Yelapa knows Konstantin's son, but only by his first name! If I had asked for Vladimir, or better yet "Bladdy" or "Vladdy" they would have immediately directed me to him!

I also learned that the price I paid for my palapa was not outrageous considering that this was the height of the tourist season. Konstantin and Linda were staying at the house of their in-laws and didn't really have a place to put me up. In fact, they were staying in a room that might be needed at any time and might have to move out. Linda was able to talk to the real manager of my palapa (without a middle man this time) and get the next 4 nights for me at a reduced price, with the understanding that she and Konstantin might need to move in with me!

Knowing that I had not been completely ripped-off I decided I liked my palapa. It was sort of like living in Peter Pan's Tree Fort. The roof was palm leaf thatch over bamboo poles. My bed was suspended from the rafters on ropes, in the loft, accessible by a ladder. There were no moms to tell me to make my bed every morning (or maids to change the sheets). I was directly in front of the dock and I could watch the world come and go from my front yard. The yard had been devastated by a recent hurricane, but within a few days it was re-filled with fresh beach sand. After a day or two, they even replaced the butane tank out back and the shower water became hot! I was not kayaking yet, but had found my piece of Paradise in sunny Mexico in the dead of winter!

All text and images Copyright © 2002 by Mike Higgins / contact