Sayulita on a sunny day … We decided to take the bus to explore this small surfing town up the coast from PV after having done research that said it was a one hour trip. Well, the driver who could do that trip in an hour should present himself to the Formula One tracks; our bus took at least two hours, after the 40 minutes it took to get to the North End of town to catch the Sayulita bus across from Coppel.
On the way we passed through the Hotel Zone in which the massive all-inclusive developments reside, as well as the gigantic condo towers of Marina Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta. As our taxi driver from the airport noted, these developments are sucking the life out of Centro, since the people who stay here seldom go downtown and the resorts don’t contribute much to the local economy, particularly if they import their own staff rather than hiring locals.
As a result, in the downtown core many businesses have closed, leaving empty storefronts with forlorn Se Renta signs yellowing in their windows. In addition, these places are entirely generic and not at all Mexican. Anyway, we rolled through north Vallarta and several small towns and hamlets on the way, in each of which stopping to take on more passengers.
After a somewhat harrowing brakes-free careen downhill, bringing back bad flashbacks of crazy drivers in Thailand and Fiji, we arrived on the outskirts of Sayulita. The road into town was hot, dry, and dusty and gave us no reason to stop before arriving at the beach, a conclusion presumably reached by most other visitors given the shuttered storefronts on that side of the river. However, we did see a local cowboy canter into town accompanied by his dog running in unison, not something you see every day of the week in Vancouver.
A walk through the colourful stores, bars, and restaurants brought us down to a gently curved bay with medium-sized surfing waves and a large throng of beach goers watching a surfing competition.
In Puerto Vallarta I had wondered where all the young 20somethings were. Now I know; they are all in Sayulita surfing or watching surfers.
We stationed ourselves beachside under a shady awning and watched the flow of people come and go and an acrobatic demonstration by one of the surf dudes.
After a couple of cervesas we wandered back through the town, checking out some of the galleries and jewelry.
Someone had told us that the rich and the hippies have been fighting about the direction the town will take; we saw some evidence of that struggle in the somewhat uneasy coexistence of high end retail and cheap bars.
After watching an artisan paint clay piglets and having purchased a tiny hand painted skull to add to my collection of Memento Mori memorabilia, it was time to hit the road again Jack for the long bus ride home.
One of the interesting aspects of Mexican bus riding is that often local musicians, some of them very good, will jump on for a few stops and serenade the captive audience. The fellow who sang to the accompaniment of his boombox on the way out was good. The same can’t be said, though, for the guy on the way back, whose three note guitar strumming and very loud singing directly into my ear did not endear him to me. Another facet of Mexican travel is the number of vendors selling stuff on the highway right in the traffic: squeegee guys, newspaper sellers, performing artists, flower sellers, and men in cowboy hats thrusting chiclets in the bus windows. We were told the story of one poor fellow who on a bad day sold nothing and on a good sales day was routinely robbed of his day’s take. A difficult way to make a living.
After having jumped off the bus in old town we headed over to the local BBQ joint where we joined a crowd of hungry, jostling chicken lovers fighting for takeout chicken packets. Having secured our bag of eats without any blood loss, we made our weary way hillward.
A few other things of interest, at least to me:
Old volkswagons abound here, all red.
Steroids must be legal here; they are advertised in pharmacies.
The other day I purchased a handmade woolen sheep from one of the indigenous vendors downtown. She had a very colourful stand full of woolen animals and wall hangings to which I was drawn like moth to a flame or crow to shiny metal. As I was looking at her wares, she brought out her smartphone and showed me pictures of the family farm in Chiapas where six girls spin the wool of six sheep to make their products.
I was charmed by her but Ty, cynic that he is, reminded me of the time in Merida when I had been taken advantage of by two guys with a story about poor orphanage kids. However, I believed her and, even if it were not true, I don’t care. I love my sheep (although I did feel a moment of buyer’s remorse at how much I paid for it.)
The ceiling of the now shuttered Le Bistro Cafe, home to multitudes of cats on Isla Cuale, has a ceiling fresco inspired by, and possibly an homage to, the Oculus of the Camera degli Sposi in the Palazzo Ducale, Mantua by Italian artist Andrea Mantegna.