An Eastbournian Abroad with Ashley McMillan: Hot sunny days and sand between your toes!

The reptile lurking at the waters edge trying decide wether to pounce or simply keep an eye on us.
The reptile lurking at the waters edge trying decide wether to pounce or simply keep an eye on us.
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Long overdue for this household! After what felt like an almost non-existent summer here in Whistler last year, we were both hell-bent on getting out of snowy, damp Whistler in the depths of winter for some serious sunny, warn and dry days down south – Puerto Vallarta in Mexico to be precise!

I’d promised and willed us both to get away to get some vitamin D back into the bodies – beats taking supplements, right?! So off we went just over a week or so back, bags packed and ready for our early arrival at the Vancouver airport at ‘stupid o’clock’. Bags were relatively light with no winter jacket, no big waterproof footwear and no thick sweaters in sight.

Just an array of t-shirts, shorts, thongs (flip-flops and most definitely not the painful underwear on my part!) and plenty of running gear as I’d also planned this trip to get some serious mileage under my belt while not having to worry about slipping on the ice. From the moment I’d had the OK from work to actually have any time off (believe me, I would have taken a lot more!), we’d booked this last minute escape and I’d thought of nothing else for days.

So, somewhat expectantly, we arrived to glorious sunshine. Perfectly timed flights (albeit a slightly earlier middle of the night start) had us landing early afternoon and allowed my sun deprived wife, plenty of afternoon sun to lounge in and ease her stresses away (I had to wonder if we’d ever have long enough for this…). Now, my first thought having settled into a sun lounger with a new book and a coffee and having a look around me was; isn’t there a lot of retirees here at the moment.

Listening to conversations around the pool over the next few days it became quite apparent that many of the North Americans there had chosen to spend anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months down in Puerto Vallarta in their timeshares – Mainly to escape the middle of their winters back home, but also because, well, simply because they could!

There was definitely a slightly more unusual activity we found down there that we happened across by following a small crowd of people along the sandy beaches, out of sight of the hotel. Evidently there was good reason in places to have the ‘Beware of the crocodiles’ signage around!

Imagine our further surprise when we found a local Mexican lad happily living in what can only be described as a fancy beach shack, who took it upon himself to show the numerous turtles, when in season, and now leading the foreign visitors like us who were stupid enough to follow him to the lake to spot and coax the ‘crocs’ out of the water.

Now I guess we should have perhaps been a little perturbed when we noticed the tell tale signs of the dragged tail through the sand from the beach to the lake instead of heightening our curiosity. Even when standing by the swamp-like lake there were a good many chickens and hens in the bush and thickets and I suspect would often have made for good fodder for the predatory instincts of the reptiles. With this in mind, you may wonder why we were all standing so close to the waters edge throwing food into the water to coax them toward us, especially if you’ve ever seen one of these guys rise out of the water!

Funny how after having one’s awareness raised about some of the local habitat how you then notice their presence in other parts of the neighbourhood? They were also then spotted as being the odd additional moving ‘hazard’ on some of the local golf courses. I guess this would be ‘par’ for the ‘course’, if you’ll pardon the pun!

It’s amazing the difference time away from your home town can make. Whilst I readily accept that many in the know will contest that we currently live in one of the most idyllic places in the world here in Whistler, there are times when everyone feels the need to escape.

It’s just that thought of ‘escapism’ that draws us to this very idea. All too often it matters not where you live as the ‘grass is always greener’ somewhere else right?! For us this time, it was a mix of many factors mentioned before, such as the lack of summer last year, the long long winter we ‘endure’ here, the damp, snowy or wet slushy paths and roads we negotiate to move around the town, etc.

It’s not such a bad place and this author will always have his heart well and truly embedded in the mountains as it’s difficult to dislodge a lifelong ideology and feeling of peacefulness you truly get being surrounded by the dramatic landscape and vistas and supremely clean welcoming air.

So somewhat refreshed, batteries re-charged and perhaps just a little sun kissed, we landed back in wet, overcast Vancouver here in British Columbia. Ha! Welcome home! Nope, the snow hadn’t melted here in Whistler. No, the temperatures were not yet spring-like and yes, the roads were and are still icing some nights under the smattering of the odd snowfall still landing in the valley.

So here’s hoping a few weeks down the line this weather will gradually turn here. Blasphemy from my fingertips writing that, but as a runner, there’s only so much training I can endure indoors and I for one am eagerly waiting the opportunity to run the many stunning mountain trails once again and I would rather contend with the local wildlife of the bears, coyotes, wolves and deer than a reptile any day!

Happy winter everyone!