17 December 2009

Bird Symphony

It is my last morning in Vallarta and so at 7am I went out for my final walk to the beach. Usually I walk down or up the beach but today I just sat on a bench and watched the birds and the sun come up.

The pelicans, gliding a few inches above the water, are still my favorite sight. Along with them were other, smaller birds dive-bombing for breakfast. A grackle perched on a sign post right in front of me, calling out to his buddies with numerous different songs. Before each melody he would puff himself up and cock his head at a different angle to get a different sound. Pigeons and others flew over my head calling out to each other and alighting in the palms trees.

At this time in the morning, it almost felt like I was on a deserted beach. Soon, though, the morning joggers and walkers with dogs began to fill the area around me.

I got up and took a final stroll through the streets that surround where I have lived for the past month. It is a small area, yet I found some streets that I had never been on before. I found myself looking for places I might want to stay the next time I am here.


15 December 2009

Cuban Cigars

All along the malecon and on every block in any part of the city where a tourist might walk, there are stores selling Cuban cigars and/or tequila. In case you don’t happen to notice their shop, fear not; each has the requisite guy out front hawking the wares.

The men are usually late 20’s to mid 30’s. They are clean and neat but in a kind of night club sense; button down shirts opened a little too far, tight jeans, a few tattoos and a lot of product in their hair. Most speak at least enough English to call out to passing tourists, offering free shots and good deals on booze and stogies. They sort of creep me out; like the type of guy you would not accept a drink from where you in that bar, or the type you would cross the street to avoid passing.

However, I was rather curious about Cuban cigars, coming from a country where one sees nothing with Made in Cuba stamped on it. And being well versed in the laws of my country, I know that it is illegal to buy Cuban products and transport them across country lines. And although I would never, ever do such a thing, I thought I owed it to the people of Cuba to at least look at the product that has made them famous worldwide.

Upon entering any of the cigar shops, you will notice an interior, glass-walled room where the cigars are kept at the perfect temperature and humidity. A salesman escorts you in and gives you all the information you want. I didn’t pay that close attention since I hate cigars. More specifically, I hate the smell, which is right up there with skunk on my olfactory meter.

The prices range from about US$11 to $22. Some are thinner and some are fatter. The guy told me that the larger ones are made with the biggest leaves of the tobacco plant which have a better flavor. They also vary in terms of mild to strong.

Seeing as these chaps set of self-preservation/warning signals, you are never quite sure if anything they tell you is on the up and up. And how are you supposed to know if one shop is better/more legit than the next? At least I got that sorted. My cigar aficionado merchant told me that the entire Cuban cigar franchise in Vallarta is owned by one company and that prices are set. Or at least that is what he said.

I was in there at 9am and they offered me a shot of tequila, which I declined. But if you go by later in the day, there are plenty of tourists imbibing and, I assume, purchasing both cigars and tequila.

I guess that I was in such a hurry to get out of there and maybe take a shower, that I forgot to get a picture to go with this story. So I will use the sand sculpture shot.

Since I first arrived, I have seen this one sand sculpture on the beach, right along the malecon. You can tell it took talent to erect, but looked as though it was only in the beginning stages. The artist sleeps right next to his work and there is a donation box set up.

As the weeks went by, the sculpture didn’t change, other than minor repairs. I began to wonder if the artist might have a bit of a drink problem and that was as far as he was ever going to get.

Yesterday morning, I was amazed to see this brand new, incredible sculpture of a woman. It also looked like he was setting up to do something even grander. I dropped some money in his box and saw him stir in his beach bed.

Walking a little further, I realized that what I had just seen was an entirely new artist. The original guy was still there.

This afternoon I was anxious to see what was going on with the forms that had been set out the day before; I was thinking big sand castle. Whatever it will be, it is still in the setting-up stage. But the one I had seen yesterday now had a man sculpted into it, and I noticed that it seemed to be the work of two men. I’ll go by tomorrow and hope that some more has been done with the new work. I’m worried that it will not be finished by the time I leave on Thursday afternoon.


13 December 2009

12 December

The final, and most important night of the 12 day festival for Guadalupe, was Saturday night. And this time I finally got it right and was out on the streets when the rest of the city all seemed to be there. Granted, I came back home at 8pm and the revelers stayed until at least 2am, but I definitely was in the midst of it all.

This time the streets were jammed with families and groups of friends walking or seated on the curb of Calle Juarez. I especially adored all the kids who were dressed in traditional Mexican clothing. (think: Frida Kahlo). I didn’t have the proper shirt, but at least I had the white pants.

When asking about the nights festivities, I’d learned that a torch was being run from Mexico City to Puerto Vallarta and would arrive on the parade route at 7:30pm. I wanted to make sure I was there to witness it. The runners were preceded by several police cars and motorcycles, sirens blaring. When they passed by where I was standing, one guy handed the torch off to another. They were followed by a large group of joggers aged kid-adult, all decked out in green and white. We all applauded as they cruised by.

I sort of got a picture of a Guadalupe on a flat bed truck, but I realized I had missed all the best photo opts the first night I had been out.

The food stalls were doing a brisk business and I was in the mood for a roasted ear of corn, but could only find cups of corn. I got one and declined the mayo and hot sauce topping, asking only for a lime to be squeezed over it. It was tasty and close in flavor to a roasted ear.

I walked a block down from the processional street to the malecon which was also packed. I stopped at the edge to watch the huge waves crashing with such force that the water reached all the way up the seawall and onto the pedestrian walkway. (I took pictures, but my camera is just not good enough with the nighttime stuff so I can’t share them with you). It was fantastic!

Again this morning I went down there and the waves were up to their same display. I could have sat there for hours, so entranced was I by the sight and the sounds of the forces of nature. I so love this shoreline in the early morning when few people are out and it seems it is just me and the birds. I try not to count the days until I will have to leave it, but have not at all been successful in doing so.


11 December 2009

Vallarta Botanical Gardens

The Vallarta Botanical Gardens sit a 20-peso bus ride south of the city; maybe 35 minutes away. The trip took me past the two beaches I had visited and on up into the Sierra Madre Mountains.
I dressed in jungle trekking gear; long skirt, tank-top, and scarf. The first thing I noticed when I got off the bus at around 10 in the morning is that it was a bit more chilly than down by the bay. Knowing that I would be sweating within the hour, I ignored the minor discomfort.

Several other visitors were on the same bus and we headed to the entry gate where Rodolfo explained the rules and regulations, took our entry fee, and suggested we put on bug repellant.

I never carry the stuff for several reasons, one being that the stench of repellants always gives me a headache. Then there are minor annoyances such as Cutter Bug Wipes which remove the nail polish you had so carefully applied, and leave you with a sticky mess. (although my nails are not painted on this trip). Additionally, not only have I not been bitten by anything here, I haven’t seen any skeeters. I looked around as the other tourists slathered on gunk and Rodolfo explained that we were in the jungle, not in the city, and because of the rains we’ve had, the critters were out and looking for easy prey and one wouldn’t want to catch Dengue Fever. Conveniently, they had anti-bug gel for sale. I took a sniff; not bad. So I bought the rather costly tube that holds enough goop for my next 5 years in any jungle terrain.

The Gardens, a non-profit organization, opened in 2005 and are totally funded by donations. They “…are in a unique tropical dry forest ecosystem at 1,300 feet above sea level.” http://www.vallartabotanicalgardensac.org
They cover 20 acres starting at the top of a hill and running down to a small river. I’d planned on walking around for several hours but the gardens are a work in progress and at this time there seemed to be only three, smallish trails to hike on. There are, however, lovely rose gardens and agave gardens, a small orchid house and this incredible, bougainvillea covered Visitor’s Center that houses a gift shop and restaurant.

The most incredible piece of information I learned was that vanilla plant is an orchid! It is “the most labor intensive food crop in the world”, and “the world’s second most expensive spice.” (I am assuming that saffron takes first place).

the long pieces sticking out are vanilla beans

Early on in my adventure, I made friends with Domino the Dog, a young, part Sheppard female. She seemed content to follow me around. I lost track of her somewhere as I headed down the river trail. Nearing the bottom, I saw that she was now with a group of four other visitors, leading the way. We tagged along behind our tour guide who would wait patiently for us to catch up.

The river had areas deep enough to swim in, and it looked quite tame and small. I am sure that in the rainy season it gets much more powerful. Looking at the rock formations in the river I was reminded of the Sierra Nevada’s. This particular trail did not loop around so that once you reached the end, you had to double back. The last part was a bit too much slippery-rock trekking for me, so I headed back to the main Garden area.

An older gardener was working the areas along the main, wide path. I stopped to talk to him and then another two other times before I left. He told me how the small, blooming roses had been planted only six weeks ago and that they were native to Mexico. He pulled up a wee little plant and said that in six weeks it would bloom. Ah, the wonders of a tropical climate on plant growth! We talked about plant pests and in Mexico it seems to be the ants. He asked me if I had a garden and I told him I was new to the practice but thoroughly enjoyed it. I asked where there was another trail and he said I should go back to the main entrance, then up the trail that runs along a little ridge. At that point Domino the Dog showed up. The gardener told me that she just loves to walk with the visitors around the gardens.

So off I went with Domino at my side. At the entrance, I asked Rodolfo to point out the trail. From where I stood it looked like it was a five inch wide goat path. He assured me it was an easy trail and that Domino would show me the way.

A short while later I was back at the Visitor’s Center. I decided to take a peek at the gift shop and head on up to the restaurant, with its sweeping views, to have a cup of coffee.

Sitting on the outer veranda, looking out onto the gardens, the river far below, and the surrounding mountains, I figured I could live there for awhile. Absolutely breathtaking. I thought that I would have to come back at a later date and eat a meal there.

When I got back home I didn’t have any insect bites and I wasn’t sticky from DDT, and I couldn’t smell any harsh chemicals. Maybe the stuff works, or maybe there were no bugs. But at least I have a repellant that I won’t react to as if I were a mosquito.


07 December 2009

La Virgen de Guadaupe

You know who she is, even if you don’t think you do. She’s the iconic image that appears on all things related to Mexico. She is the patron saint of Mexico and of Puerto Vallarta.

Festivities to honor La Virgen de Guadalupe begin on December 1st, leading up to the feast day for Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe on the 12th.

Every evening, starting at around 5pm, one of the main streets, Calle Juarez, is closed to traffic and becomes the processional route for devotees of La Virgen.

Groups from schools, associations, neighborhoods, restaurants, hotels, and more, make the pilgrimage from around the city to Calle Juarez. They are dressed mostly in white, or white and one other color. Some wear t-shirts with a picture of La Virgen on the front, and their group’s name on the back. They carry lighted candles, balloons, and offering baskets. At the front of their troupe you might see a group of native Indian dancers or a brass band or a flat-bed-truck-float with a young girl posing as Guadalupe. Throughout their processional, they sing songs of praise for their patron saint. They parade down the street turning left at the small, half-block street that leads to the entrance of The Church of Guadalupe. As they enter the church, the bells of the tower ring out in an incessant show of acknowledgement and blessing.

Food stalls line Calle Jaurez and vendors patrol the streets selling toys, mylar balloons, cotton candy and more. I was impressed with the ingenuity of the bubble stand; they’d filled ½ pint take-out containers with colored soap water, and fashioned bubble wands out of wooden sticks and pipe cleaners. All this hung from plastic bags attached to a small, mobile cart, next to which the vender stood and demonstrated his wares.
Families are out buying food and toys, sitting on the curb getting ready for the parade. The kids are all having a blast and so are the adults. People who have apartments along the parade route sit on their balconies or bring chairs to the sidewalk. It is a very festive atmosphere.

Last Friday I arrived at around 5pm because I thought that was when the processionals began. Although the streets had been blocked to traffic, and the vendors were either out or setting up, no one started down the parade path until 6pm. I meant to go again for the past two nights but the rain deterred me. That first night out I had somehow neglected to get a picture of one of the Guadalupe girls on a float. I went down tonight, but again I was too early. There were two groups but no floats. I’ll get that picture before it is all over.

Walking around the town square, which is filled with booths selling food and crafts, I noticed that there was what looked to be chalk paintings on the ground. I walked over to a whole row of 6-foot-square ground murals. It had been raining all day yet they were still in fairly good condition and magnificent. I asked someone when they were drawn and he told me it had been this morning. I wanted to kick myself; I had walked by the square twice in the early hours but must have been on the other side of the street and not noticed anyone working.

I am told that the final day is a really big deal and I should go in the evening. I imagine it is jammed packed around 9pm and I will really try to not go out until then. There is just so much one can do alone at this sort of event and two hours seems to be my limit, which has meant I have left before the party really gets rocking.


Bugs Everywhere

I learned to drive on a 1964 VW Bug. Mexico produced them until 2003. I love seeing them, in all their various conditions, on every block i walk on. I've been collecting pictures to do a photo essay on them and still want more. However, we have had 2 days of rain and grey weather, so I might as well post the Bug shots instead of taking another nap.

Seems I had more, but can't seem to fnd the.

05 December 2009

Boca de Tomatlan

The beach of Boca de Tomatlan is another small inlet past Mismaloya, where I had gone two days ago. This time I was dressed for sunbathing.

Yet another harrowing bus trip before I arrived at my destination. This time it involved passing semis on that narrow, twisting, two-lane road.

I walked down the steep cobblestoned road down to the river which fed into the sea at the beach. I could immediately tell that this was not as nice as Mislamoya. Things all looked a bit dirty around the edges. There was a hotel, I think, but mostly it was private homes running along the river’s edge and on the hillside overlooking the cove.

The river was much larger than the one at Mislamoya and filled with boats. It looked like they could navigate up river quite a ways, but it was hard to tell from my vantage point. The cove itself was much smaller and as I stood there looking at the rather drab beach, thought I might just get on a bus and head back to Mislamoya.

The chairs and tables and umbrellas had been set up, but no beachgoers were there. I had a choice of three restaurants and chose the one where there was the most sun at that time in the morning. I sat in a chair for awhile and finally had to go find the waiter to order a drink.

To the right was a small pier with a boat or two tied up. A handful of small water taxis anchored closer to where I sat. Two boats had groups of tourists going out to Yelapa, and there was a constant flow of water taxis bringing locals and tourists to the shore.

I have been told that Yelapa is a beautiful place on the far end of the bay and only accessible by water taxi. From PV, I was told it would take an hour and 45 minutes. Looking at the little boats I pretty much had already decided against the trip. I found out that from Boca de Tomatlan, it is only 30 minutes. That would mean the dreaded bus trip for 25 minutes, followed by another 30 minutes of possibly the same, but on water. I’m still thinking it over.

Slowly, as I sat all alone on the little beach with the water lapping up almost to my feet, I totally relaxed and decided this wasn’t a bad place to be. And since I didn’t know a soul there, I felt comfortable stripping off the sarong and baring the bikini-clad bod.

I have this thing about not getting naked in front of people I know. When I go to a beach I don’t care what I look like as long as I don’t personally know anyone there. (I don’t do staff pool parties). I hadn’t been wearing swimming attire when I’d gone to Mislamoya, but would not have been able to lie there comfortably even if I had. There, after having spent so much time talking to the waiter before I had even sat down, the last thing I was going to do was to get half-naked in front of him.

But at Boca, I was free as a bird and it felt fantastic to be soaking up the sun. I can’t even remember the last time I did that. The great thing about Mexico in December is that the sun’s rays are not the strong. I was there from 10 – 2:00, (my usual 2 hour limit), with no sunscreen, (de rigueur for me), and I am not burned. I’m actually sort of bummed I don’t have more color.

I lay there in the sun watching the pelicans and other birds swoop down looking for fish. I ordered some fish for myself and snacked and read and relished this life I have come to adore.

Two men appeared almost in front of me and started to fish. They use these throw lines that are on a spool. Using a lasso type wind –up-and-cast, the line is thrown into the water and rapidly reeled in. (which is done by rewinding the line around the spool). I was thinking, good luck; this will never work, when the guy reels in a 12 inch fish. I started talking to them and soon found out that early afternoon is a good time to fish since the boats are less frequent and therefore not frightening the fish away. They also kept pointing to where the fish were and I kept looking until I finally saw the fish breaking through the water to feed on the small fish that were near the surface.

A little while later I watched as this bird dive-bombed into the water and came up with a fish. It was my very own nature live nature show.

I had no real reason to leave accept that I knew I had had enough sun for the day. Although I love the beach, I usually have to force myself to lie there for anything more than 30 minutes. In fact sitting anywhere for longer than 20 minutes taxes every nerve in my body. But today and the other day I did not feel that way; I felt like I could have easily spent a few more hours. I’m pretty sure it’s because it wasn’t killer hot, but it might just be that I am turning into a beach bum.


04 December 2009

The Night of the Iguana

Mismaloya is a little beach cove just south of Puerto Vallarta, in the Bahia de Banderas. In 1964, it was the setting for the film The Night of the Iguana, directed by John Huston and starring Richard Burton and Ava Gardener.

Due in no small part to the presence of cast member Richard Burton and actress Elizabeth Taylor, who were carrying on a very public affair at the time (1963), the filming attracted large numbers of paparazzi made international headlines, and in turn made Puerto Vallarta world-famous. (Wikipedia, 2009)

Although I have heard of the film, I have never seen it. Prior to arriving here I may have known something about the whole Hollywood connection, but certainly no details. I keep picking up bits and pieces one of which is that Dick and Ava might have been an item even thought he was there with Liz.

How John Huston found this little spot and then convinced people to build a set there is rather impressive. At the time, the only access was by boat from PV. Luckily for me, it was a short, 20 minute bus ride up and over the hill.

It is a very narrow, winding road, with the requisite sheer-cliff drops to the bay below. All along the route are high-rise condos, apartments and resorts. Some of the condos can be seen from the beach that I walk along in the morning; they are the massive structures that cover the hillside and block the sun from the beach below. (I posted a picture of it last week). Further along the road are 5 star hotels and more gated communities. And where there isn’t yet a building or construction site, there is often a for sale sign.

As the bus made its way down the hill I asked the lady across from me where to get off. She also disembarked at Mislamoya, headed to work at one of the beach front resorts. She pointed me down the road to the beach and off I went. A man had also had gotten off with us and walked next to me. He asked if it was my first time in Mismaloya, and we started to talk as we headed down.

We carried on down the car path; a huge resort to the right, vendors selling tourist stuff to our left. In a few minutes we’d reached the beach and it was glorious. Very tiny, but it seemed that 10am was too early for the beachgoers so I pretty much had it to myself.

Beach restaurants lined the left side of the cove. The guys were putting the finishing touches on chairs, tables, and umbrellas. There were about five different establishments and you could only tell their boundaries by the different colored tablecloths they used. My new friend worked at the third one in, and I told him I’d sit and have a coffee before exploring.

I could see that there was not too much to explore. At the end of the beach were the remains of the movie set; it would take no more than three minutes to walk there. I wanted to savor that for a little later, so a short rest after the short bus trip seemed in order.

It surprised me that there were only a few tourists on the beach. There were several small boats loaded with groups of about six people on their way to either fish or snorkel. Those boats looked none to sturdy and I was happy to see that the one small child had a life vest on.

I asked why no one was there and found out that it fills up later in the day and is packed in the afternoon. Many people from the cruise ships come to spend the day there. From where the ships dock to Mislamoya is about 45 minutes in a taxi, much longer by bus. Considering they get off the ship around 9:00 or 10:00am, and must be back by 5pm, these must be dedicated movie buffs.
At the end of the beach is a path that hugs the mountainside and wends around to the set area. I passed a massage studio, beds set up so that you would be caressed by the sea air. Two women were seated waiting for customers and I said hello. I pointed to the remains of an arch that rose over the path and asked if it was part of the original set. They assured me that it was. You could just make out the faded lettering on the arch proclaiming “The set of The Night of the Iguana”.

Above the path and on the hill I saw about three different remains of buildings. I imagine that they must have built real houses and not just temporary things if, after all these years, there still a fair amount left. Fences and posted signs meant one couldn’t get in to rummage through the remains. I had fleeting thoughts of hopping a fence, but I’d probably just end up falling through a rotted out floor so kept to the designated areas.

What really was most spectacular was the vista out onto the bay and the huge rocks that jut up in the distance, and the sea as it gently crashed onto the rocks. I was disappointed that I couldn’t continue walking but the trail ends and you have to go back.

By the time I got back to the restaurant, a few more people had arrived. I took a seat and tried to figure out a plan. The first was to finally get those grilled-on-a-stick shrimp, drenched in garlic and butter. They were amazing and I finally had my first fantastic meal in Mexico.

I was sitting at a table and getting too much shade. I realized it wasn’t overly hot and would prefer the sun, so moved down to a beach chair. As I sat there I think I really did become mesmerized by the sea, otherwise there is no way I could have sat there so long after a morning of sitting. It wasn’t too hot, it wasn’t too crowded, and I was in heaven.

Eventually, the noise and the crowds increased and I did reach my sitting still limit. But I thought how easy it would be to come here for morning coffee rather than walk on the beach 5 blocks from the hotel. I like the walk I take there, but I never feel like I did at Mislamoya.

Tomorrow I will go to the next beach down the road which I hear is similar. I might even wear my bikini instead of wearing a skirt and hiking it up to get some sun on my legs.


03 December 2009

I'll Take This Neighborhood

Just when I was thinking that I might need somewhere other than Puerto Vallarta to use as my tonic for survival, I changed my mind. I went for my morning walk up the streets behind the church in the center of town.

Except for the one time I trudged up to see the gutted exterior of Liz and Dick’s house, I have avoided those steep inclines. But the weather here has been darn cold, (in the low 60’s F), and I resolved to leave the chill of my room and get the blood moving by scaling the hills of PV.

As soon as I got just one street above the main roads that ramble through town, a quiet descended all around me. The only sounds were from a few people talking in the street and from the kids practicing Christmas songs in a school I walked by. A few doggies barked as I passed and the birds ignored me and chirped.

I walked to the highest point on one street than crossed over to another. It didn’t take much time to realize that I most certainly could live in one of these hillside abodes. There were some rather large, brand-new houses, and other more ramshackle places covered in brilliant magenta bougainvillea and studded with tropical trees. I could just picture a little apartment with a view to the bay.

When I had been looking for places to stay on this trip, I carefully avoided anything that was situated on the hill. When I am at the beach, I want to live with my front door on the sand and be able to hear the breaking waves. Having said that, the beachfront possibilities here are grim and once I saw what life was like up on the hill, I changed my mind.

It sort of had a San Francisco feel with its sheer-drop-off streets running down towards the water. Of course this was on a much smaller scale with narrow cobblestone byways. I have no idea how the cars that were there managed to get up the street and hoped they had good brakes.

I also considered the walk up the hill, having sworn I would never again willingly live on anything above sea level. But in the cool of the morning it was an easy walk up. I imagine the afternoon might be a bit hellish. And then I thought that it would not be wise to live there in the rainy season. I could just imagine myself slipping on soaking wet, uneven rocky streets and dying a miserable death.

Who knows what the future will bring; but simply having the dream of a little room on the hill overlooking the Baia de Banderas fills me with great pleasure.

02 December 2009


Two days ago I wrote how it had been drizzling all day. That evening, however, is when the downpour started. It was an actual tropical rain storm and apparently that never happens.

The following morning I took an early walk on the beach and sat down to drink coffee at yet another place. The guys were busy trying to mop up from the night before when the water had come right up to the foundation walls of the restaurant. It looked to me that if there had been a stronger storm than that, the water would have entered the inside seating area. I sat at a beach table and although the tide was going out, it got mighty close to my feet.

I’ve read that there are a lot of ‘hot spots’ on Olas Altas St, and was sure that was what I had been walking down on various trips on my way to the beach. It turns out I was one block off.

It was close to 10am when I did actually happen upon the legendary area. Very cute, it was, with the outdoor tables of little cafés lining the sidewalks. All were packed with foreigners munching their breakfast. I went back in the afternoon and sat at one; now mostly empty of customers. I hear the area turns from dining to night club atmosphere in the evening.

I kept thinking about it later and wondered why something so seemingly cozy made me feel like I never wanted to return. It’s that tourist thing. One would never know one was in Mexico on those few blocks. With that in mind, I decided to finally head out to Sayulita, a small fishing village just north of Puerto Vallarta.

On the plane ride down here, two people had told me that it was a really cool place, although it was starting to turn into a foreign residence locale. I thought that maybe it would be a place I would go to next time, rather than PV.

The ladies at the front desk told me how to get there and that it should take about an hour. I popped on the local bus which took me to the far end of PV, and got off in front of Walmart. From there I got on a really comfy bus with big padded seats and we were on our way.

The bus got fairly crowded but I was not concerned about missing my stop since I assumed it was the end of the line. We’d been travelling around 40 minutes when we pulled up to a stop in a place that look like nothing much. The driver said, “Sayulita”, so I got up and squished through everyone to get off.

Looking around, I thought maybe I would have to cross the street and head down a few blocks to get to the beach. Nothing looked very appealing where I was. I walked into the nearest shop to ask for directions and found out I was in Bucerias, and that Sayulita was up the road “about 10 minutes”. I think the driver must have been telling someone that he was going to Sayulita, not that we were there.

Fifteen minutes later I got on another bus. The seat across the aisle was occupied by an Indian woman and her darling little boy who was sound asleep. I made sure I asked her if I was on the right bus. The 10 minute ride was closer to 20 minutes and it required that we drive up a hill on a narrow bit of roadway, then fly back down the other side of it. I knew then and there I could never possibly stay in Sayulita because I couldn’t handle this bus trip again.

My life of travel on buses in foreign countries, on steep mountain sides has always been, thankfully, uneventful. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t feared for my life imagining that the bus would soon join others off the side of a mountain. This wasn’t the most terrifying of trips but it evoked memories of much more frightening ones.

We arrived safely and everyone got off. I followed them towards the beach area. Right away I could see why people like this town. It was very cute, with small streets lined with palm trees, bougainvillea, and lots of greenery. It had a quiet, tranquil feel to it.

Approaching the beach I noticed the woman and little boy who were on the bus with me. They were setting up their wares to sell on the beach. I would stop by later and get something from her.

I stopped at the first beach restaurant to use the facilities and get something to drink. I sat at a table and had a good view of the small cove of a beach, lined with surf shops and eateries. I could have been in San Diego, what with all the foreign surfer dudes and gals and aging hippies.

The woman from the bus walked by, her arms laden with masses of necklaces. I called her over and bought a necklace made of cut coconut shell. I was short 5 pesos because she didn’t have change for the large bill I had, and I said I would catch up to her later. This would have been impossible in PV, but you can basically see the whole beach there and I was certain I would be able to find her later.

I spent the next hour walking up and down the streets and admit that there is a nice feel to the place. But I wouldn’t want to stay there more than a few hours. Too many Americans. I reflected that this was what I had said about PV – except that in PV, I can easily escape the tourists, and in Sayulita, that wouldn’t be a possibility.

I found a quiet beach restaurant and had some fish and shrimp tacos. The prices are still higher than in California, and I just can’t seem to get a really good Mexican meal. I had them wrap up the taco I couldn’t eat and went to look for my sales lady, which took all of 10 minutes. I paid her my balance, and gave the taco to her little boy. We talked a bit and then I was off to the bus stop for the return journey.

I like bus trips through the countryside but towards the end was getting a bit restless. But it did get me realize that I can easily take little day trips like this to other areas either south or inland. I have another planned for later in the week.