Wheelchairs in Puerto Vallarta

So I've been writing about several of our experiences in Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta, but I thought I would take a little detour and write about our experiences traveling to Banderas Bay with Mom in her #wheelchair. She passed away in January, but was the primary reason we started Beach Crossers in the first place. We spent our much of our lives at the beach and it was heart breaking that Mom could not spend the last part of her life doing the same.

First of all, there is the flight from the states. We fly from a small city in Washington State where your only destination choice is Seattle. From Seattle, of course you can go to anywhere in the world, but you have to get to Seattle first. At our little airport, you have to walk (or wheel) out to the plane and climb about 6 steps to board. Mom had lost use of her hamstring, so one of her legs had limited functionality. She was able to climb a few stairs and going up was easier than coming down so she managed this without assistance. Friends who have less mobility have to get a lift into the plane and a transfer chair once on board. It's not fun, and can be exhausting but with Puerto Vallarta waiting on the other end it is worth the struggle. Once in Seattle, you wait for everyone to leave the plane and reverse the process. We usually fly Alaska Airlines and have been mostly satisfied with the assistance we've received. They usually have someone waiting at the gate to pick Mom up in an airport wheelchair. They escort us to the elevator and to our departure gate. They handle most of Mom's bags, stop by the ladies room, and even #Starbucks if you ask. Usually great service,although the one time she flew by herself she did not get the same quality of service as she got when my sister and I were along to advocate for her.

Boarding in Seattle is much easier as the jetways allow for wheelchair transfer right to the door. Now Mom also used oxygen on the plane. That has been difficult at times, but I'm going to stick with the wheelchair for now.  Getting to the restroom on the plane is difficult. Mom considered wearing a protective undergarment to avoid the problem and would go without any fluids for hours before the flight all to avoid the trip to the restroom. In the interest of her health and comfort I promised to assist her as needed. Timing is key to the success of the bathroom visit. The beverage cart cannot be between you and the bathroom or you will never get there. Mom would slowly make her way down the isle while I carried her oxygen concentrator along behind. The flight crew will let you know when it is a good time to make that trip if you ask them in advance and if your bladder allows you to go when they think it is convenient. Mom's oxygen would drop significantly during this trip and even dipped into the 60s one time. It was very frightening for me. It is hard to take adequate time for recovery when there are people waiting for you to get out of the way.

Once in PV, the experience starts to improve. There is a very helpful man waiting at the gate with a wheelchair that stays with you throughout the entire process. They pick you up, push you to immegration, continue to baggage claim, through customs, and out to your transportation. They help with every step of the process. They don't just push you along, they help you with every part of the process. They speak English fairly well and take courtesy to a level that was lost with Ward Clever sometime around 1950 in the United States.

We always rent a car, so Mom and I waited at the airport while Sheri headed to the car rental to pick up the car. This actually worked out nice and we enjoyed a Starbucks while we waited. There is an advantage to renting a car in that there are actually designated "blue" parking spots around downtown. On the other hand, the way people park right up against your bumper makes it very difficult to get the chair in and out of the trunk at times. People are very helpful though and usually someone will come along and stop traffic or help lift the chair out at an awkward angle.

Getting around downtown is still a bit of a challenge. The Malecon area is completely accessible these days and there are even ramps that go down to the beach. With the beach wheelchairs from www.beachcrossers.com (a little self promotion) you can cross the cobble stone streets and head to the beach without any problems. However, in Mom's transport chair it was definitely a challenge maneuvering downtown.Once you are away from the new Malecon area, the ramps are small, steep, sometimes at awkward angles, and sometimes there is a telephone pole in the middle of the ramp. Even in the Malecon area there are ramps that lead down to the street that align with cobble stone instead of pavement. The pavement is just a little bit to the left, which isn't a big deal if you're walking, but it's a challenge on wheels. Some of the shops are difficult to get around and many of the restaurants have a couple of steps up. If you are willing to accept help, the employees will pick you up, chair and all, and lift you into the restaurant. It's an adventure, but the people are genuine and it is nice that they get the opportunity to help.

We took Mom out on a trip to the Marietas Islands on a Vallarta Adventures excursion. The staff lifted her and her chair onto the vessel and spent the entire day pampering her. When the dancing started she was right in the middle of things.

Once at the Marietas you have the option to head to shore for some beach time. That was not an option for Mom, but they did a great job of pampering her while the more able passengers did some kayaking and snorkeling. I most appreciated that the captain traveled close to the island so Mom could get a look at the Blue footed boobys since she couldn't go on the excursion. The weather didn't allow us to get very close and whether or not she actually saw the blue feet was up for debate, but when we enlarged her pictures there they were on the rocks so she could say she saw them in person and that was worth all of the effort.
We took a trip to Caletas in the daytime and the young men carried Mom and her chair across the stone walkways, not to the first beach, not to the second beach, but to the third beach because that is where there was a shady spot. Sheri and I went snorkeling and when we came back Mom had a coconut milk at the table. Turns out the guy that cuts the coconuts came up and gave her a lesson on how the whole process works. She also got to meet the parrots up close and personal. What she wanted to do was go up and see the orchids, which was definitely not an option. Sheri and I hiked up the orchid trail and took pictures of the two orchids we saw. I'm glad we didn't try to get Mom up there.
One of my favorite excursions was the Lluxury Sailing. We were all pampered on that trip and although the bathroom was a challenge for Mom, the rest of the trip was mostly sitting and enjoying the time on the water. It was beautiful.
Another challenging place was Chicos Paradise. There is no way to get a wheelchair down those steps without being carried. Mom chose to walk down and it was a slow difficult trip. She survived though and had a wonderful lunch watching the rock diving demonstration.
I never watch. It's way to intense for me.
Mom's favorite restaurant was Pipis where the chili rellenos are amazing. It's located about 3 blocks up from the Malecon on Calle Pipila. Again, there is a problem with a couple of steps up, but they are so very accommodating and Mom was gracious enough to accept help. Pipis is a favorite of the northern visitors. The portions are huge and the margarita's are not short on tequila. Either plan on some left overs, or share a plate with a friend. The guacamole they make at your table is seriously as fresh as you will find anywhere. They take all of the fresh ingredients and mix them together in a stone bowl as you watch. You decide how much spice to add and then they leave it with some fresh chips. Often times they have brought us a second appetizer "compliments of the house" which have all been uniquely delicious. Not a genuinely Mexican meal, but as far as Tex-mex it would be impossible to beat. However, the tequila is genuine, so don't plan on driving once you leave there if you have a drink. Most of the guests have trouble walking out of there and their conversations are a lot louder than they were when they went in. The baked ice cream is amazing. Definitely one to share with the entire table.
So many wonderful memories.

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