60 Trips Around the Sun & Queen for a Week

60 trips around the Sun is something to celebrate! And Kirk did an awesome job planning a FUN-filled week celebrating Heidi‘s 60th Birthday. He hit a home run with moonstone earrings, a shell bracelet, and a beautiful manta ray t-shirt, and Heidi loves all of them!  

Festivities kicked off on her actual birthday, January 22 (which happened to coincide with the beginning of the Age of Aquarius!). Ten local Vallarta friends hailing from six countries: Kristian (Mexico), Agné (Lithuania), September (Canada), Sam (South Africa and more), Rachel (US), Sherry (Iran), Eddie (US), and Jeffrey (US) joined us aboard Due West decked out in her birthday finest with picado (cut paper) and Feilz Cumpliaõs banners, for a fun evening of snacks and laughter, topped off with the first of several GF-vegan cakes (that no one could tell was gluten-free or vegan!)

A few days later we were on a first-class bus with front-row, top-floor seats, headed to Ajijic (Ah-he-heek) via Guadalajara. In Mexico it’s much more common for people to travel by first-class bus than fly or drive (and these are SO MUCH nicer than Grayhound and Trailways!)

For 10 years they’ve been promising the new toll highway connecting Guadalajara to Vallarta will open soon—it will cut the 5-hour trip down to 2 1/2 hours when it fully opens. Parts of it are now open, and we went through at least five toll booths. As you can see from the prices it starts to add up. So this toll highway when finished, will likely be used primarily by the wealthier class in Guadalajara to get to their beach homes or vacation in Vallarta. And the farmers and everyday travelers will still take the five-hour windy mountain road. (Remember to click all photos to view larger.)

We had made this same bus trip to Ajijic about a year ago with lots of blue agave for making tequila as far as the eye can see. But there are always new things to see along the highway, including perpetual road construction. On this trip we saw a new toll station being built, an overloaded sugarcane truck with a broken axel (along with a new truck and workers swapping the load—flew by too fast to snap a pic of that!), an hour-long traffic jam while highway workers striped a curvy section of the new highway (in the middle of the day!?); and a truck full of jackfruit, to name a few. Ironically, they are spending so much time and energy on this project, to build a 2-lane highway with no room to expand. So possibly it was cost-prohibitive to build a 4-lane highway? Thankfully the marine-layer gray skies parted once we got over the mountains.

Once in Guadalajara, we took an Uber the last hour to Ajijic. BIG THANKS to our longtime Seattle sailing BFFs, Patti & Frosty for hosting us. Their lovely hacienda was Birthday Party Central for the week… Our mutual friends Christine, visiting from Texas, and Teresa & Rob, visiting from Seattle (who we went to Cuba with), arrived a couple of days later to continue celebrating Heidi’s birthday, and both of theirs too! 

Christine, Kirk, Patti & Frosty, Rob & Teresa at Casa Golondrina.

Mexican Antojitos for dinner in Ajijic reminded us that prices are much more reasonable there than in Vallarta (where sadly groceries and restaurants often sport US prices these days—unless you know where to eat and shop—and with the dollar falling to the peso, Vallarta is no longer a bargain.) This cuenta for $409 pesos ($24 US) for five people for dinner was a fantastic bargain, and good food too! 

This was our second trip to Ajijic, and we love this artistic, mural adorned Pueblo Magico even more! Some walls had been re-painted with new murals in the past year (like the pineapple), and walking down streets we’d missed on the last trip, we found even more beautiful murals at every turn. 

Check out these fascinating large bird nests in trees along the waterfront! Flocks of large wild Green Monk Parakeets (about the size of pigeons) share these giant nest communes. From Wikipedia, we learned a bit more about the Green Monk Parakeet so we thought we’d share a little about this amazing bird. (Solo bird at right was taken from Wikipedia.)

Native to the temperate subtropical areas of South America, self-sustaining feral populations now occur in many areas with similar climates in North America and Europe. And there are quite a few wild colonies in Mexico, like this one in Ajijic. The monk parakeet is one of only two parrot species that builds nests out of sticks in branches, instead of living in a hole in a tree. They are a gregarious species that often breeds colonially, building a single large nest with separate entrances for each pair, which is why we saw multiple birds on each nest (click left photo to view larger).

Apparently, the composite nests can become quite large—reaching the size of a small car—with pairs occupying separate “apartments” in each commune. Females lay 5-12 white eggs, which hatch in about 24 days. And grown offspring may assist their parents with feeding the young. These parakeets can live about 20-30 years in the wild. Now you know everything that we do, about Monk parakeets! LOL…

One morning we took a hike with Christine, past colorful homes and neighborhood shrines, up the hill above Ajijic to a small chapel. From Patti & Frosty‘s rooftop, it looked like an arduous hike. But thankfully there were plenty of switchbacks, and it wasn’t too hard. The cherry on top was a great view of the entire Ajijic and Lake Chapala area from the shrine. 

That afternoon we toured the grounds of the Peacock Garden Restaurant (we didn’t eat there, so can’t vouch for the food) with its brightly colored walls and birds. Heidi had a fun visit with our friends Annabelle (who moved from PV to Ajijic last year) and Diana (whom we met through Annabelle). And we saw this industrious basket vendor all over town, hopefully, he made some sales!

Another afternoon, Frosty serenaded us around the pool in the courtyard. He is an awesome blues guitarist, and we always love listening to him jam, and watching his fingers pickin’ and sildin’. We all debated going swimming, but the air temperature at 3,500 feet was a bit chilly compared to sea level in Vallarta that we’re used to (as you can see Heidi was wearing jeans on this trip!)

The full moon birthday party (with planets rising!) was so much fun we forgot to take photos! Great to meet more of Patti & Frosty’s Ajijic friends, and really wonderful to spend time catching up with Christine, Teresa & Rob too.

Heidi’s second birthday cake was SO delicious, (also gluten-free and vegan, THANK YOU Vegan Town, Ajijic!) and was the HIT of the party!! (We are not vegan, but Heidi is Celiac, and allergic to dairy and eggs, so any baked goods need to be gluten-free and vegan.) And no one could believe this gorgeous, deliciously moist cardamom cake was gluten-free and vegan!

Honestly, it was one of the best cakes we’ve ever had!! In fact, we all went to dinner at Vegan Town another night, just so Heidi could get one more piece of that cake—ummmm—it’s on their menu! And their gluten-free vegan cheese pizzas are the bomb too!

All too soon it was time to say goodbye…Christine returned to Vallarta with us, so our next post will share the fun things we did during her visit.

We were so grateful to our friend Emily for cat-sitting the furbies while we were away. Unfortunately, Tosh has a lump growing on his head right now, and we’re waiting to get his pathology report to see what’s going on. His blood labs look good, so we’re hoping for the best. He’s been sleeping with his head against our amethyst crystal, picking up the healing vibes. Please send good juju his way. And Tikka always loves cuddling up with her mom for naps.

Many thanks again to Patti & Frosty, and all our friends for making Heidi’s 60th spectacular! And another BIG thanks to Kirk. too! We will leave you with an art walk around this cultural gem, Ajijic. Definitely worth the trip there if you’re anywhere near Guadalajara…


  1. Mary & Giff on March 12, 2024 at 5:43 pm

    Hi Heidi Kirk, Your postings are always so entertaining; filled with great adventures, friends and I LOVE THE COLOR! The Pacific Northwest could use a lot of color to brighten up their grey days.
    For the last 4 years, Giff and I have been spending our winters in Santa Barbara. We have a place just north of town facing the ocean.
    Happy 60th Heidi! You look fantastic as always.
    Hugs to you and Kirk,
    Mary & Giff
    PS We lost our Lacey last November and are presently without our felines . We send big healing wishes to Tosh. Your fur babies are so fortunate to have you two and they, in return, provide you with such joy.

  2. Roger Wagoner on March 13, 2024 at 6:58 pm

    Great pix! And a wonderful trip. I’m jealous, really.

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