Dodging Patricia 6

The possibility of a hurricane made 
for a fun adventure in Mexico

Imagine returning to your hotel room and finding a letter which reads, “Hurricane Patricia is currently expected to make landfall near Puerto Vallarta sometime Friday afternoon. The safety and security of our guests and associates is a top priority. Out of abundance of caution, we are evacuating the hotel and relocating guests to Guadalajara Jalisco.” What started out as a normal press trip was quickly escalating into one of the most tense moments of my career. It was a wild couple of days and a birthday I will never forget.

What started out as a normal press trip was quickly escalating into one of the most tense moments of my career. It was a wild couple of days and a birthday I will never forget.

I arrived at the PV airport, caught a taxi to the CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa and took a walk around the property that I would call home for the next few days. I walked a little farther along the coast, exchanging banter and laughs with the hawkers walking along the beach. As the sky transformed from clear to overcast I made my way to a nearby jetty to take some photos. During my walk I was stopped in my tracks at the site of a silhouette emerging from the ocean, headed toward the shore. It was a figure accompanied by a large fishnet sack stuffed with a black rubber tube and, upon closer inspection, I discovered a man who had been free diving and had caught a large amount of oysters. He was very jovial and allowed me to take numerous photos but declined my self-invitation to dine with him!

The next day we had a full schedule, which started with snorkeling in the morning near the Marieta Islands, a group of uninhabited islands off of the Mexican coast. After returning from the tiring snorkeling adventure, I took advantage of the resort’s spa services and booked a Thai massage at the Ohtli Spa. Later that afternoon the group was to meet for a tour of the Malecon, Puerto Vallarta’s highly adorned and highly trafficked path that runs along the ocean. The highlights for me were the numerous statues placed along the path, most of which look like surreal creatures that melted right off of a Salvador Dali canvas. A light rain moved in so the group sought shelter at the famous beachside restaurant named La Palapa, and, after an hour, we were informed by our group leader that our itinerary would be changing a bit due to the building storm. I knew there was a chance of inclement weather moving into the area but, until that moment, had not considered the severity.

We left La Palapa and returned to the resort, only to be greeted by our hosts and the chaos of people loading their luggage onto buses. The hospitality director, Ruby, informed us that due to the potential severity of the hurricane, which had now grown from a small blip on the map to a large Category 5 mass, the guests of the resort were going to be evacuated and bussed out of Puerto Vallarta. Ruby also told us that the entire city wasn’t being evacuated, but that the hotel managers made the decision to have everyone evacuate the resort as a precaution, not wanting to take any chances whatsoever. We were told we would be leaving in the morning and should pack our bags and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. After I packed, I was so anxious that I went for a walk around the grounds. The empty resort was very unnerving, and the lack of noise from vacationers had been replaced with sounds of powerful winds straining the nearby palm trees.

The same wind that had lulled me to sleep woke me up on the morning of my 32nd birthday. I made my way downstairs, where the remaining resort guests were gathered in a conference room and briefed one final time, some being given updates about the storm and others learning about evacuation routes. We were to evacuate to Guadalajara because it was the closest city with a major airport. The highway was gridlocked most of the day, and a drive that normally takes 4.5 hours took us over 11 hours! We arrived in Guadalajara and went to one of the Marriott’s sister properties, where we would stay for the evening. The group met for dinner and discussed what a wild ride the past day and a half had been, and I ended the day with a much needed birthday margarita.

The following morning I received news that the storm had dissipated and was broken up by some of the hills surrounding Puerto Vallarta’s coast. It’s amazing to think that a storm of that magnitude could go from being one of the largest potential disasters in history to simply a heavy downpour in roughly a day, and I’m thankful that Hurricane Patricia blessed me with such an eventful birthday and gave me a unique gift – a story.