Every day around noon Raoul, one of the swarthier members of the 'entertainment' staff can be found strutting around the sun loungers charming the ladies in to an aerobics session with him in the pool.
'Come on Signoritas! You's gotta work off the alcohol si!'
Gold rimmed shades, ponytail and snake hipped he sexually insinuates himself through a wall of liver spotted cleavages and plastic sun visors.
Sure enough ten minutes later the pool is a blanket of giggling American housewives staring adoringly at Raoul who stands on the side thrusting his groin in a slow circular motion and telling the ladies to follow suit.
The French looks up from his reading and mutters; 'Fucking Raoul.'
In the evening we're having some cocktails before dinner and discussing the much anticipated performance of the “Mexican Michael Jackson.” I never really understood the appeal of the actual Michael Jackson but I do find the world of imitators weirdly intriguing. The French however is uncharacteristically keen and is practising his moon walk in the middle of the plaza with a drink in one hand and his hat tilted Jackson style. I wave my glass at one of the staff and beg for another drink.
The build up is impressive. There's a big light show and a massive projection of Jackson's (Liz Taylor phase) eyes. Six dancers appear and start throwing shapes and even the table of drunken Scots (same table every day from 10am till 11pm) briefly look up from their drinks and make a collective noise which could be a heckle or some kind of approval. Finally Mexican Michael arrives in Thriller mode. He gyrates wildly, makes that squeaky noise and grabs his groin. The French grins, then frowns and finally squints.
'It's fucking Raoul.'
'I'm telling you – That. Is. Fucking. Raoul!'
I take a closer look at the groin rotation. It could definitely be Raoul.
He does all the big numbers, 11 costume changes and finishes with a dramatic 'It's your fault I'm dead' kind of blackout. The crowd goes wild.
A couple of hours later there's a conga line working its way around the fountain and yes, Raoul is leading it. The man's an animal.
When we arrived The French was pretty ill with a bad cold. He has since recovered and passed the baton to me. Our room is littered with half bottles of Vicks 44 expectorant, Tylenol, Ibruprofen and now Pepto-Bismal which I picked up yesterday at a Farmacia in Puerto Vallarta. The constant diet of chilli, lime and Amaretto Sours/Margaritas means heartburn is unavoidable. The woman in the shop gives me a quick appraisal and discreetly hands me a list of under the counter drugs available. Tramadol, Vicodin, HGH...the list is impressive. I start to enquire about the cost of the diet pills but The French grabs me and pushes me firmly out of the door.
I catch my reflection as I walk past the mirror. Cocktail in one hand, Pepto-Abysmal in the other. I pop an ibroprufon and a tylonel and wash them down with swig of pepto.
Admittedly I look like shit and I have a pretty bad cold but I'm on holiday and no one can take that away from me.
It's 30 degrees and the French can't take a step without breaking a sweat. My hair has reacted to the humidity and is eight times its original size. The French occasionally pretends its become sentient and says he can see a pulse. The novelty of constant alcohol has worn off but we're still very much working on the premise that if you're not sure what you fancy there really is no bad time for a Bloody Mary. We have located the one man in the hotel who knows how to make a decent coffee. He works in the 24 hour sports bar and every morning we shuffle in there with the other 6 people who have discovered him, request a hit, and give the obligatory half laugh when he suggests a shot of tequila in it.
Being constantly looked after and having to do absolutely nothing for yourself except wash is very seductive but also creates an inertia that makes you feel like having a nap every twenty minutes. To counteract this we've been making little trips outside of our cottonwool wrapped world, the first of which was to Bucerias.
The taxi dropped us off at the edge of a flea market. It looks like a shanty town and from the moment you step out of the car you're assaulted by dozens of people holding up bits of jewellery, rugs, skull mugs. One stand has gimp style superhero masks. The French points at the Dead Pool one and says he needs it.
'Take it mi amigo,' the man says. 'Make all your fantasies come true.'
Another big guy nods at us, 'Come see my cheap shit.' I don't think his heart is in it.
It's a bit overwhelming. You want to be polite and say “no thanks” to everyone but in the end we just push our way through the crowd and stop responding. We find a restaurant that's been recommended to us. Miguel Angel is a cool little Mexican place with parrots hopping around everywhere and palm leaves for a roof. Miguel himself is charm personified. He looks like Charles Bronson and The French calls him that for the rest of our visit.
'You like football?' Miguel asks.
'Who's your team?'
'I got a sports bar upstairs, they playing right now.'
There's a small cloud of dust where the French once stood. Born lucky. I follow up the stairs and there it is, a hug sports bar with the game playing and various men staring fixedly at the screen whilst some disenchanted women shovel tortilla.
A smiling man brings a bucket full of ice within which are nestled five bottles of corona and a dish of lime.
'400 pesos amigo.'
The French is about to distractedly hand over the money and then does the math.
'400?! That's more than 20 pounds. For five beers??'
The man smiles nervously.
'Five buckets, amigo.'
'What the fuck do I want with 25 beers?!'
'Okay, 100 pesos for one bucket.'
He's tried it on, not succeeded and there's a slightly tense feeling in the air. Luckily the outraged French is an affable sort and merely gives him a friendly slap on the back which nearly floors the tiny chap.
'That's more like it!'
He watches the game and I watch the room. Everything is so colourful here.
His team wins and we head downstairs to eat. It's shady and lovely and the waiter brings me a bucket of passionfruit Margaritas. We eat fish tacos and giant fried prawns with the obligatory nachos and dip. There's an old boy playing a keyboard and singing in the corner. He starts 'What a wonderful world' and its just perfection. A small boy comes in and tries to sell us handmade bracelets with little dream catchers on them. He wants 100 pesos (about five quid). They're hideous but he's a pro and whilst the French tries to haggle him down to 50 pesos the kid refuses to make eye contact and insists on at least 70. We buy the damn thing and I'm forced to wear it. He's the first of about 60 people trying to sell us stuff. I wonder if there's a kind soul somewhere with a room full of sombrero's, rugs, dolphin wind chimes, marble face ornaments, skull head mugs, grains of rice with their name on it, cuban cigars...actually we did buy a box of cuban cigars but turned down the weed that was offered with it.
The second trip is to Puerto Vallarta where we find a colonial style shack on the beach called The Red Lobster. The food is fantastic and we just sit there for hours eating, drinking, laughing and politely refusing to buy a million things.
The third trip we've been looking forward to all week. We are headed to the 'Rhythms of the night' event at a little cove some miles away. We travel there by boat which takes about an hour and a half and involves a glorious sunset and a lot of rum punch. The team on the boat led by Julio are hilarious. They throw alcohol at you, play music and do little skits to keep you amused. There are about 40 of us and everyone is in high spirits. A man called Tom and his friend recreate the Titanic pose at the front of the boat, people are dancing and laughing. A hush descends as the sun sets and before long we are approaching the Las Caletas cove which is entirely lit by candles and flaming torches. It's a jungle and as we get nearer we spot a mermaid waving from the rocks. A girl dressed as an eagle perched in one of the trees. The water around the boat is clear and thousands of fish are shimmying in the light. We dock and start making our way up a candle lit path. Part of a tree unfolds and smiles at us, something that looks like a cross between a goat and a god plays a lute and a half naked man painted to look like a deer struts around on the rocks and watches us suspiciously. It's completely immersive theatre and not what I'd expected at all. We'd been told the show was influenced by Cirque du Soleil which I liked and not dissimilar to The Lion King which I fucking hate. When we reached the clearing the layout was much like an Ampitheatre with steep wooden stairs at one end leading up to a large skull surrounded by fire.
'It looks like a sacrificial alter,' I whisper.
'I hope it is,' The French says, looking pointedly at a woman just behind us who hasn't stopped narrating every moment since she got off the boat.
The show starts with a very entertaining Master Of Ceremonies who walks through the audience making guttural tribal noises before saying terribly politely “That means, excuse me please, I need to get through”. The performance lasts the perfect amount of time (40 minutes) and there's a giant butterfly in a tree playing a violin, a colourful bird woman on a wire zooming around overhead, giant stilt walking tree men, monkeys doing insane balancing acts using only one arm, fire juggling and dancing. The French keeps staring at the Deer man suspiciously.
“It's fucking Raoul. I'm certain of it.”
I have absolutely no idea what the plot is or why the deer gets killed and comes back as a dancing man but The French assures me its all about the connectedness of everything in nature and everything serving a purpose. I'm fine with that.
Afterwards we are taken to our table for two by the edge of the sea and served booze and food by candlelight whilst a man plays a harp for us. It's all ridiculously romantic and I can't help but think about the level of organisation it takes to make this many people feel so personally cared for. The beach to our left has been hung with dozens of cream hammocks and its an absolute scream watching couples trying to climb in to them gracefully for a kodak moment under the stars. One big chap looks utterly defeated before he's even begun but his girlfriend is bloody determined and so he folds himself on to an edge and braces himself with one foot in the sea for what looks to be ten minutes of absolute terror.
A bell rings and its time to head back. The journey is broken up by the crew dressing up as Kiss and performing for us. No, really. A Liverpudlian chap comes up to me and nods towards The French.
'Is that big lad with the hat your fella?'
'He had me and my girlfriend in bits all the way out on the boat. He was having a dance and rolling a fag at the same time whilst everyone else was holding on to the rails for dear life.'
'Yup. That's my one.'