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The Rolling Cameras of Guadalajara January 29, 2014

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Biking, ecotourism, Guadalajara, Mexico, Nature tourism, Sustainability , add a comment

Camara Rodante
Last week I had the chance to visit with Carlos Ibarra, news photographer for El Mural and one of the founders of Camara Rodante (literally, “rolling camera”.)

Carlos with his collection of miniature bicycles and a photo of his father, an avid bicyclist.

This intrepid group of biking photographers is dedicated to promoting biking in a variety of ways. Besides their weekly outings, which traverse a variety of rural terrains around Guadalajara and further afield, they’ve organized get-out-the-vote campaigns, children’s outings, first aid workshops, bicycle repair workshops, and a fundraiser for Haiti – all aboard the seat of a bicycle.
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Coasting along the Costalegre: Puerto Vallarta January 16, 2014

Posted by Tracy in : Mexico, Uncategorized , 1 comment so far

PV1

Part 6 of a series

PV2Driving up from the south in the golden light before sunset, we were entranced with the undulating highway hugging the cliffs and opening out to spectacular views of rocky, dramatic seashore. We passed Mismaloya, where Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s steamy romance was captured for posterity in Night of the Iguana; past the little seaside villages where fishermen still cast their nets from wooden boats; plunged into the crowded cobbled streets of Old Puerto Vallarta with its jumbled mix of modernity and antiquity – Starbucks-meets-Maria the Taco Lady, on a grand scale. Later we’d immerse ourselves in the heart of this, but tonight we were headed straight through the city to the hotel zone on the other side, to a soaring white all-inclusive resort on the Marina called Vamar Vallarta.
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Coasting along the Costalegre: Costa Careyes January 2, 2014

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Mexico, Nature tourism, Uncategorized , add a comment

Copa 1
Part 5 of a series

From the land, the cryptic entrance sign says it all: a question mark, followed by an exclamation point.

From the sea, the first thing I noticed was a strange inverted dome perched atop a narrow tongue of land, a crystal-studded cup opening skyward upon a bridge of wave-pounded cliffs. La Copa del Sol, it’s called, and it’s the brainchild of the same visionary who created the lavish dwellings tucked along this 22-kilometer stretch of coast known as Costa Careyes.
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Coasting along the Costalegre: Manzanilla and Tenacatita December 20, 2013

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, ecotourism, Mexico, Nature tourism , add a comment

laguna

Part 3 of a series

We awoke early this morning and went to the wildlife refuge at the backside of Barra de Navidad, a place seldom frequented by tourists but a hotspot for migratory waterfowl. A beautiful place to watch the sunrise and the sometimes extraordinary birds that appear there; once I saw several very large waterfowl that I didn’t recognize, over a meter in height. Today there were a pair of graceful blue herons fishing for breakfast; we observed them quietly before hitting the road north.

Today was the day we’d arrive in Cuixmala, the mysterious coastal refuge that was the high point of our trip. But first, we had a bit more coast to explore.

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Coasting along the Costalegre: Cuastecomates to Boca de Iguanas December 18, 2013

Posted by Tracy in : Uncategorized , 1 comment so far

Cuastecomates

Part 2 of a series

A tunnel of green arched overhead as we made our way along the wild and winding stretch of road leading toward the coast from the main highway. The tiny town finally emerged into view; it was the same precious village we’d seen from the sea when we went snorkeling. Like many of the towns along the Costalegre, there’s not a lot here, aside from a lineup of palapa-covered restaurants, a single hotel and a spectacular beach, enclosed by two imposing, granite outcroppings. But what more could a vacationer want?

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Coasting along the Costalegre: Barra/Melaque December 17, 2013

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, ecotourism, Mexico, Nature tourism , add a comment
Sunset from the deck of Lydia's on Isla de Navidad

Sunset from the deck of Lydia's on Isla de Navidad

Part 1 of a series

CUIXMALA, Costalegre, Mexico – A precious undeveloped remnant of coastline along the Pacific Ocean revealed a few of her secrets to me over a few days this autumn, secrets I will never forget.

The sight of a protective mother brown booby protecting her downy white baby from raiding iguanas on an island off the coast; a sea turtle laying her glistening round eggs on the beach by the light of the moon; the soft feel of a baby in my hand as I place it on the sand and watch it make its way toward the waves; the crashing sound of a crocodile in the darkness of the mangrove, and the lurking form of another alongside our small boat; the forms of two white sharks far below me as I peer out from an airplane soaring over the coastline.
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Adventure meets elegance in Barra de Navidad October 30, 2013

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Mexico, Nature tourism, Uncategorized , 2comments

Barra banana boat

BARRA DE NAVIDAD, Jalisco, Mexico – The crashing waves and a gentle breeze serve as the backdrop for an Italian opera here at the expansive Bar de los Chicanos, atop the elegant Hotel Alondra. When we first arrived, it was a rousing salsa set, a hopeful bid to fill the ample dance floor overlooking the sea; but seeing that today’s Hora Feliz (Happy Hour) clients were writers and conversationalists and loungers rather than dancers, the accommodating bartender changed the tune.

It’s like that, here on the Costalegre, Mexico’s “Happy Coast.” Whatever your mood, you can find the circumstance, but more likely than not, it will be laid back – particularly at this time of year, when the heat obliges one to take a more contemplative pace.

I came here with my sister Toni in October, before the beginning of high season and just at the end of hurricane season. News of the Category 3 Hurricane Raymond closing in on the coast of poor sodden Acapulco, struggling to recover from last month’s Hurricane Manuel, definitely puts a damper on our plans to mosey up the stretch of coast from Barra on up to Puerto Vallarta, exploring the villages and beaches that make up the Costalegre.
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Tonalá: A step back in time February 3, 2010

Posted by Tracy in : Guadalajara, Mexico , 3comments

IMG_0626

As is the case in many big cities, one of the best things about Guadalajara is what lies outside its boundaries. That’s the case with two colonial villages just outside the city limits, Tlaquepaque and Tonalá.

Tlaquepaque is the more carefully groomed, tourist-brochure version of the colonial village – and it’s delightful, with its nightly serenades by mariachis, streets that were made for strolling and lushly landscaped courtyards. Tonalá, on the other hand, is still a little rough around the edges, with an outdoor market where you can still get a hearty meal of steak, chicken or fish in the market for about $2.50, or pick out your fresh produce and a cut of meat to go with it, all while watching the children run and play in the plaza next door.

Tonalá is a destination for shoppers of bargain artenanía, which ranges from kitchy Aztec calendars and frog-shaped ceramics to sophisticated creations from some first-rate artists. Here’s a little peek.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

A leap of faith in Guadalajara October 24, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : ecotourism, Esperanza Project, Latin America, Mexico, Nature tourism , 5comments

Luis Medina, founder of Eco-Tours Guadalajara: "This is my office."

Luis Medina must be one of the happiest men alive.

“This is my office,” he says with a broad smile and a sweep of his arm toward the mirror-like pool in front of him, the basalt formations all around and the forest beyond. We’re in a place he’s dubbed “Naturaleza Mistica” or “Mystical Nature,” where water has carved these crystalline pools into the rocks all around.

"Naturaleza Mística"It’s a place that invites contemplation, inspiration and renewal. Birdsong ricochets from tree to tree in the stillness of the afternoon; the water drips from pool to pool, and a cricket chirps from a nearby crevice. I can’t imagine a better place for an office. Luis is the founder of Eco-Tours Guadalajara, the area’s first tour company dedicated to outdoor adventure. Now he and his 10-member crew lead adventures in rockclimbing, rappelling, ziplining, mountain biking, scuba diving and canyoneering.  Today he leads a group of travel writers, in Guadalajara for the SATW convention, through various degrees of terror and exhilaration on the first three, beginning with a rappel down a 50-foot sheer wall and a clamber up another one, followed by a leap from a cliff on a zipline.

On a recent El Diente tour, travel and outdoor writer Bob Sehlinger makes the first descent.
On a recent El Diente tour, travel and outdoor writer Bob Sehlinger makes the first descent.

Now we’re following him through a grassy field to a rocky forest as he interprets the geological and biological wonders of this place.

A lava flow over basalt bedrock yields clues of El Diente's origins, Medin explains.

It was a leap of faith that brought Luis to this place in his life. He was an excellent secondary school teacher – so good that he was promoted to school principal. He enjoyed education, and his wife Lucinda taught there, too. But something in Luis kept calling him to the great outdoors, to the wilds of the mountains that encircle Guadalajara.

“Finally I couldn’t take it anymore,” he said. “I needed to be outside, in nature.”

So after 11 years in public education, he and Lucinda left their jobs and founded Eco-Tours, taking their teaching skills to a new audience. Now their pupils learn to overcome their fears and bond with the natural world around them.

El Diente (The Tooth)It wasn’t easy in the beginning. Luis approached local tourism officials for support, but they were skeptical.

“Ecotourism in Jalisco? There’s no demand for it,” he was told. But he persevered, and now business is booming. His is one of four ecotourism companies in the Guadalajara area.

“We have one of the most spectacular sites in the country for ecotourism – excellent walls for climbing, beautiful landscapes, amazing canyons, and all just 45 minutes from Guadalajara,” he says. “This place is a natural for ecotourism.”

Click here to take the photo tour

Contact Luis and his crew at promociones@eco-toursguadalajara.com or call (011) (52-33) 13 68 93 11. The Spanish-only website is at www.eco-toursguadalajara.com but Luis is conversant in English.