The sprawling beast that is Mexico City, the fifth most populated in the world and home to between seventeen and a half to twenty one million people. This would be the next stop for Hamish.
A successfully negotiated flight out of Houston, Texas taking just over two hours, we met him at the baggage claim and took him to the animal reception centre for inspection. To our slight surprise the official in charge didn’t even look at him and merely glanced at the paperwork before stamping the appropriate approval forms for his entry through Customs. A lot easier than the twenty minute taxi ride from the airport to our apartment, which saw just about every illegal manoeuvre possible as we weaved in and out of traffic like competitors in the Cannonball Run.
Restaurants dog friendly
On the face of it, the city didn’t seem too un-friendly for dogs with most restaurants and some shops happy for Hamish to wander in, some preferring him to be carried and some (eateries) happy for him to be in the outside seating areas. All pretty good and easy when you’re on the lookout for food, drink and a place to rest your weary legs.
Chillin in the city parks
His home for the first two weeks in the Capital would be an apartment block in the city centre, adjacent to a large(ish) park called the Alameda Central and within walking distance to the Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Forest) one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere, measuring just over 686 hectares (1,695 acres). A smaller park calked Plaza La Cuidadela was also close and located within a residential area and we visited there on occasion to mingle with the locals not normally used to seeing tourists in their neighbourhood. These parks would provide some respite from the jam packed pedestrian areas where, at times, Hamish would have to be carried as there really was no room for him amongst the thronging streets that make parts of London look like a one horse town and for a small dog looking up at the world, quite a scary place.
In between park visits we tried to walk Hamish on the quieter side streets. This turned out to be a good thing, not only for him but for us too as prices were vastly less expensive in shops and restaurants. Street vendors were aplenty and we seen some of the city we’d never have witnessed had we stayed on the main tourist trail. The locals were friendly and though we stuck out like a sore thumb painted in neon pink, we happily mingled never once feeling threatened or at risk. Our lack of Spanish at times proved to be a source of amusement to some of the children working as street traders, our food ordering almost guesswork. Hamish though oblivious, gained some admiring and puzzled looks wherever he went. He also seemed to understand Spanish better than us…
Unfortunately we couldn’t allow ourselves to let Hamish off the leash other than in the apartment lobby. Mexico City reportedly captures and puts down approximately 20,000 stray dogs a month such is the problem. Some residents apparently throw out scraps of food laced with poison to help with the “clean up”. We came across some of these strays and though none were aggressive they could be persistent and gave Hamish some unwanted attention. We also worried about what diseases or parasites they could pass on. As such we tried to avoid areas where either strays or dogs unaccompanied by their owners roamed the streets.
Within Alameda Central Park I witnessed one or two rats scurrying about the flower beds; so did Hamish, and when you’re a dog whose primary instinct is to weed out and kill vermin then a hunting you shall go. Thus another reason to keep him on a tight leash.
Trying to find quiet amidst the chaos.
Although pet friendly our apartment block of 800 residential and business units was not the ideal place for dogs. Eleven floors up with almost constant noise from music, children and construction work in the apartment below meant little respite from the constant racket. The only view Hamish had was of other apartments; nothing really to stimulate between walks. As a result we cut short our month long stay here to find some calm and solace outwith the city centre rat race. A good move for us and Hamish and he looked forward to his next “home” complete with rooftop terrace…. and some peace and quiet.
This next area was set within the tranquil residential Coyoacán [Land of Coyotes] district of Mexico City. Formerly a village, the urban sprawl of the capital reached the district in the mid 20th century and thus became a borough of the city. With all the amenities of a small town but still holding on to most of the original features, it gave the feel of being out of town though still within the city. Vivero Coyoacán, a large park just a short distance from the centre was the perfect setting for a walk or stroll away from traffic. Unfortunately dogs are not allowed in the park but with others close by we had plenty choice of alternatives. These would be great places for Hamish to get away from the city centre crowds and stretch his legs a bit. The area was also very dog friendly with plenty residents having dogs of their own and very few strays roaming. Restaurants welcomed him in and Hamish was delighted to sit with us at the table (albeit on the floor).
The two bedroom apartment overlooked a private garden lined with trees and filled with wildlife, including squirrels, birds and the neighbours parrot (boy could it squak). With exclusive use of the roof top terrace Hamish could wander freely, look down at the neighbours and up at the treetops and the wildlife within; all whilst soaking up the winter sun, still in the mid to high 70’s Fahrenheit. Peace at last!
Local wildlife, including black squirrels. A first for us.
With under a week to go here in Mexico City, we ponder the next move for Hamish which will take us hopefully up to and through the festive period. Puerta Vallarta just north of Acapulco on the Pacific Coast looks the best bet for sun, sand and dog friendly fun. Fingers and paws crossed for accommodation.
Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast would be the new home for Hamish on the run up to Christmas. 90 minutes from Mexico City by plane saw us leave behind the hustle and bustle of big city life for the holiday resort town popular with American and Canadian tourists.
Chillin on the beach and by the river.
Our flight made good time and as we arrived made for the baggage claim only to find Hamish and his dog carrier on the carousel with the rest of the luggage. A little bit perplexed there was no animal collection centre and somewhat annoyed at his treatment, we lifted him off and searched for a taxi to take us to the first accommodation of three during this initial two week stay.
First up a three story Villa nestled in a gated community within the Marina had Hamish and his hunter instincts on high alert. Though no squirrels here he found new prey to get excited about, including iguanas hiding amongst the rocks and possums slowly moving about the bushes and trees. Though Hamish liked to seek out iguanas at the waters edge he would have to be keep at close quarters as the Marina was host to crocodiles and we were warned that dogs were a popular meal. The crocs we seen seemed pretty chilled, basking in the sun but we weren’t taking any chances. We also spotted some giant iguanas in the trees and locals said if Hamish got too close they may attack if threatened.
Crocodiles using iguanas as dog bait….
Between hunting times he enjoyed the large grass dog run close to the Marina where he met a new friend, a Pit Bull Terrier rescue called Van Gogh, so named due to only having one ear. A delightful dog given a new life by his new owners, they played happily until both tired.
Van Gogh the Pit Bull rescue
After a week at the Marina we moved to the Old town Puerto Vallarta, firstly at the Hotel Cinco22 for three nights, again meeting a new friend, this time a Dachshund called Limbo before moving to the the boutique hotel Rivera del Rio situated on the edge of the jungle on the banks of the River Cuale for four nights over Christmas. No resident dog here but street dogs a plenty, some wandering in to the hotel to check out the new guy in town.
Hamish the new street dog
The new guy with the new haircut – his second on this trip and his first since New York back in August. Comparing prices, we were charged $80 USD in New York whilst in Puerto Vallarta it cost $180 Mexican Pesos or equivalent $11 USD.
The old town area was close to the beach and although very crowded during the day, Hamish enjoyed an early morning run off the leash along the sand when it was relatively quiet. Later he could cool off in the shade either on the hotel terrace or by the pool.
Resting at the Café and Hotel
He was also welcomed in mostly all the bars and restaurants and would usually find a cool spot either under the table or in the corner; the owners supplying water to quench his thirst. The two places that didn’t allow dogs we tied him just outside and sat at the door table. Our favourite vegetarian buffet had open trays of food so it was understandable and the other had two children as “doormen” and “dog security” and watched Hamish whilst we ate. Really, they were the kids of the owners working for tips by opening car doors etc for diners. We happily played along.
Checking out the fake ducks at the hotel….
We checked out on Boxing Day and would move to the country for New Year; in hope of less noise, fireworks and some quiet time before moving back to town on the 10th January. A small town called Valle del Banderas about an hour north of Puerto Vallarta and about ten minutes from Bucerias would be home until the the 10th January.
Valle de Banderas
As much as we were looking forward to some peace and quiet over the New Year period, our two weeks here in Valle del Banderas was primarily a holiday for Hamish. To say the least he’s not a fan of fireworks and every celebration in Mexico, be it Birthdays, Christenings, Weddings or Christmas and New Year is commemorated with high volume pyrotechnics and loud music. So the relative quiet of a small town would see us avoid the worst of the noise.
Playtime in the countryside.
Situated on the edge of town amongst agricultural land, with relatively few neighbours, our accommodation was an en-suite room within a family home, its own entrance and access to the rooftop terrace. The owners had two dogs of their own, both rescues, a Doberman Pincher and a Boston Terrier. Both fabulous dogs, they welcomed Hamish into their pack immediately and he soon made his presence felt by jostling for Alpha position, terrier style.
MoJo and Cooper
Adjacent to the house was a narrow canal that ran a few miles in both directions. Filled with water from the river close by, it is used as a water irrigation system for crops during the dry season and had a footpath running alongside; great for walking Hamish off the leash; the canal a cracking place for cooling down. Chaperoned by Cooper the Doberman, sometimes by MoJo the Boston, we’d walk the path twice daily. Another track led us past a few cattle ranches which allowed Hamish to gaze at the cows and horses and witness cattlemen drive their stock between fields. Most of the properties had dogs and although noisy behind locked gates, when out roaming were pretty friendly, Hamish happily greeted each one in the customary manner before rejoining his own pack.
The small town with a population of roughly 5000 wasn’t blessed with tourist money. Quiet and friendly, with dirt and cobbled roads, it was similar in appearance to any town in a Hollywood Western, minus the saloon bars and gun-slinging. It took us about 15 minutes to walk through the dimly lit streets into the town centre where we’d dine at one of the taco stands or buy fresh fruit juice from the local café. During these walks we’d encounter many dogs gallivanting about. Some seemed to be street dogs, others had owners who just let them wander during the day before letting them back in at night. None showed any aggression towards Hamish, most were friendly and just about all of them were either frightened or wary of humans, especially if unknown to them.
Other days we travelled into the nearby resort of Bucerias and Hamish enjoyed the soft sand under his feet as we walked along the beach. Again, as in other towns and cities in Mexico, Hamish was welcomed in shops and restaurants. He was also allowed onto the public transport and at times we rode the bumpy bus journey home, not for the faint hearted….
All in all, this was a great place for us, a fantastic place for our dog and difficult for him to leave. He’s had so much freedom here and possibly the most since we departed for our travels back in August.
Hamish loved Puerto Vallarta. Running free on the beach, his time spent with other dogs and the pet friendly vibe everywhere we went. So being back in a large city, even with plenty of long walks as we explored, wasn’t to his liking as busy traffic and crowds of people kept him on the leash most of the time.
We arrived at the airport after a bumpy flight to find Hamish again surfing the luggage carousel like a fairground veteran before we hauled him off to the rockier uncertainty of Mexican taxi rides.
Safely making it through the thronging streets, we stayed at two locations close to the city centre and Chapultepec, both with balconies for him to enjoy and cast his eye over the passing world. Restaurants were mostly accommodating so long as we sat by the door or in the courtyards. The city also seemed free from strays and street dogs.
Hamish made friends with a couple of (guard) dogs here and enjoyed seeing them on a daily basis. One a German Shepherd, the other a Pitt Bull Terrier. Both seemed to be stuck in their respective properties which seemed to be businesses and empty at night (other than these two roaming free).
Sunday mornings were relaxed affairs with one of the main road arteries closed to traffic, allowing bikes, pedestrians, joggers and dog walkers to take over and enjoy pollution free activity; also for Hamish some social time with other dogs.
The huge Metropolitano Parque was the highlight for him with a large fenced area and dozens of dogs free to run and play. Arriving there by taxi we spent almost a full day here, Hamish exhausting himself, his dominant personality taking over as he harried, chased and broke up fights between other dogs. The nearly dried up pond in the middle produced a mud bath meaning the mobile Dog Spa on the parks edge would be kept busy cleaning off the caked on dirt as owners returned to their vehicles. Hamish, like many children, hates bath time and cried throughout – still better than potentially picking up any nasty bugs from the dirty and stagnant pond.
Not much more to report from Mexico’s second city. A few more friends collected along the way, we waved them goodbye and made for the airport once again, this time for the city of Oaxaca in the South West of the country.
We would only stay in Oaxaca for a week before moving on to the coastal town of Puerto Escondido. There wasn’t much here for Hamish other than a couple of parks to run around. The streets were busy with traffic so “off the leash time” was limited to quiet times usually on Sunday and although we walked a lot, world heritage sites and nice restaurants don’t interest dogs; nothing beats running free to stretch your legs.
We stayed at two boutique hotels in the city just ten minutes from each other. The first had a resident cat (which kept out of Hamish’s way), the other an Australian sheep dog named Bowie, after the entertainer.
The two got on like a house on fire and enjoyed each others company, happily tiring each other out.
During our stay we went to a Temazcal ceremony and and during the two hour duration, Hamish was allowed to wander the secure grounds and play with the owners dog. However, we were told he waited for us outside the bathe house the entire time like the loyal dog he is.
The week soon passed and it was time to move on and Hamish would love his next destination and as much free running on miles of deserted beach as he could handle.
With a lack of opportunities available in Oaxaca, Hamish would enjoy almost unlimited freedom in the town of Puerto Escondido [Hidden Port]. Every restaurant, every bar and miles of golden sand and warm sea was his to enjoy. Our four seater light aircraft from Oaxaca City wasn’t to his liking but at 45 minutes long beat the marathon 6-9 hour “Vomit bus” which twisted and turned like a rattle snake through the jungle on the 170 mile journey.
We stayed in two apartments on the edge of town, the first with a secure garden which, our host assured us, had been fumigated against scorpions was perfect for Hamish. A large lime tree took pride of place and was home to playful squirrels – his favourite TV show – and an old hollowed out tree stump in which a sizable Iguana lived inside. Every second house had dogs and along with the half dozen or so street dogs which sauntered about meant new friends to play with and bums to sniff…
The street dogs in this particular part of town are treated well with business owners and restaurants clubbing together to pay vets bills, and making sure they don’t go hungry by leaving out scraps of food. A reasonably decent way of life considering the local shelter houses 90 plus dogs, a shocking amount for a town of 45,000 people.
Our second was a one bedroom hotel apartment with sizeable balcony overlooking a tropical garden, again keeping Hamish glued. Both places were just ten minutes walk to the beach and we’d go there on a daily basis for an hour or two just walking on the sand watching Pelicans dive bomb unsuspecting fish whilst giant waves broke as they crashed upon the shore line.
Excursions to the beach in Scotland are usually icy affairs with nothing more than dipping your toe as a means of getting wet. As such Hamish usually avoided the cold water but with temperatures in this part of the Pacific coast remaining constantly high all year round, the sea feels like a lukewarm bath, enough to cool you from the heat of the day but still warm enough to swim in. Hamish would submerge himself at the start of the beach walk where the water was relatively calm, his thick coat holding water for the duration thus preventing him from overheating.
For a change of scene we went out on a fishing boat Dolphin spotting. This meant a six o’clock start and having to drag the normally nocturnal Hamish from his slumber. The old phrase “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie” rings true and he gave a grumbling growling grunt like Dick Dastardly’s Muttley as we ushered him out the front door.
A short car ride to the bay we loaded up and set sail as the sun rose from the horizon. Once on board Hamish took to a life on the ocean waves like an old sea dog and happily skipped from bow to stern as the boat skimmed across the waves, from time to time sticking his head overboard staring at the Dolphins as they swam beside the boat, his eyes transfixed as they jumped high into the air before sinking beneath the ocean and into the abyss. An enjoyable morning for all, it was fabulous to see him enjoy himself from start to finish. We felt two hours was enough and along with Dolphins, seen Turtles, Marlin and Sting Ray. Quite an adventure.
As our time in Puerto Escondido drew to a close, we were hopeful that our next port of call would give Hamish as much joy as the one we were about to leave.