River Cafe, Iguana, Puerto Vallarta

Iguana_in_mexicoPhoto credit: “Iguana in mexico” by Tomas Castelazo – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

My first virgin visit to the River Café was more than ten years ago. My family had taken a cruise down the west end of Mexico. Our second stop was Puerto Vallarta. It was September and the humidity was deadly. I had our two year old daughter riding my hip as we strolled the famous Malecon. It was a long walk and if I set her down for a moment the words flying through the air would be “Uppy me, Uppy me!”

In those days the cruise ships came into port early and did not stay the whole day, so… we were out walking before the shops opened. After an hour walk I was tired, hot and cranky. I swore I would never return to this hell hole, not knowing that instead I would return and live a decade in paradise.

Finally after many “Are we there yet” cries from both my daughter and me we came upon the River Café. The famed restaurant sits on the river Rio Cuale and is a long standing establishment in the Mexican village which once was small and now is a world vacation destination.

River CafeThe waiters, some of which are friends to this day, pulled together two equipale chairs for our daughter to take a nap while my love and I enjoyed large ice cold martinis. By the second martini I crowned Puerto Vallarta as Heaven on Earth!

While delighting in a warm balmy breeze one of the waiters came over and rushed us to the river. There, high in a tree, above the rushing water was an Iguana that must have been 1.7 m long and at least 14 kg. By the looks of the creature it was not young which explains the position high in the tree. How intelligent was this being to be over the water for a quick escape from predators.

With a lifespan of 15 to 20 years it is possible that the same Iguana is resting in the tree still today. While the Iguana’s predator of Hawk, Eagle and Snake have little chance of finding him in this pueblo, the most cunning predator, human, could capture and devour our spiny backed friend. Iguana meat in Mexico is a normal dish while outlawed in the United States. It is almost a shame to destroy the entire animal when its tail can be removed and a new one will grow in its place. Interesting idea for a delicacy.

While standing on the balcony at the river’s edge we became aware of people on the bridge above who had also stopped to take in the site and snap some good tourist souvenir pictures. The site was unique to us and common place for the locals. Although the Iguana is a solitary spirit they are also social and communicate between each other in eye movements. Their sight is so good that they can see at great distance which is an aid in protecting them from predators.
Additionally the Iguana has a third eye which detects light. This parietal creates a wonderful mystique for this nature made living being.

Over the next ten years the River Café became a regular haunt for my family. We spent many a Thanksgiving and Christmas at the fine establishment. Twice while dining we heard the large “thunk” of an Iguana landing on the soil next to the river. The river does not cover all the soil year round. The Iguana that is an omnivore leans mostly toward a diet of an herbivorous. The tenderest greens are at the end of a palm frown. Reaching for the youngest taste the Iguana will sometimes find itself being pulled by gravity to the ground below which is often covered with forgiving water. In either case the Iguana’s strong body seems unfazed by the fall and slowly moves back toward the trunk of his tree home.

Even with its razor sharp teeth and territorial nature the Iguana seems uninterested in attacking humans. Brothers and sisters of the green iguana can be found riding the shoulders of vendors traveling the beaches and offering photo opportunities. When in Mexico keep your eyes peeled for green moving objects in the sun drenched tropical trees. It might just be an iguana loving his life in paradise.

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