I found myself day dreaming at the wheel as we drove out of the mountains south of Puerto Vallarta along Highway 200. I jerked myself out of it because dropping your guard can be quite shocking in Mexico. The roads are full of potholes and cows and people and topes (speed bumps) and all manner of sudden obstructions. Yet here I was drifting along at 60 miles an hour like I was driving through Central Florida on Highway 27 without a care in the world.
Call it miraculous but after the appalling potholes and bumps of Highway 200 coming out of Puerto Vallarta, the dystopian city of rain and traffic jams and crowds and ugliness, we broke out onto a ribbon of smooth black asphalt climbing into the mountains through small picturesque villages and miles of canopy shading the sun that had finally broken through the cloud cover. I was obviously exhausted and it was two o’clock and we hadn’t eaten. My wife instructed me to find a space to pull over so she could make lunch. Her wish was my command and I magically caused a disused sand quarry to appear.
She opened the Gannet Café while the Chief Security Officer and I went out to check the perimeter. As we ate our salmon salad I dropped a suggestion in the ships suggestion box, pretty sure it would sink out of sight. “We could spend the night here.” I was exhausted after all the dodg’ems in the Big City. “Okay” she said. And just like that we did.
She amused herself deploying the Instapot while I took a nap with Rusty and dug into a Nevada Barr novel recommended by Bruce a former New Mexico resident. The clouds dropped their loads and a light rain spattered GANNET2 making the dust speckle to look like camouflage. All we could hear was the occasional drone of traffic on the highway below punctuated by the roar of trucks using their Jake brakes to slow their descents. Night fell, and just like that we were alone.
It would be satisfyingly dramatic to report that we were set upon by bandits but our lives are surprisingly not the scene of a melodrama and in due course the sun came up and I dragged myself from my comfortable bed to take the hound from hell on his morning walk, the unvarying routine.
We dodged cow pats and fences and followed a trail up into the woods above the van and the road far below, the only signs of life.
Of course when we got back on the road we immediately encountered people shattering our feeling of being alone, first a work crew rebuilding a culvert and as soon as we crested the pass we saw a restaurant offering breakfast and pretty soon the perfect black ribbon of asphalt brought us to a market town, Tomatlán where Layne shouted “Tamales!” a secret code word for “Stop the van!” She went shopping while Rusty put the fear of God into a sweet local resident with her tail between her legs. I tried to offer her a chicken strip but she was too beaten down to take even that. I uploaded my previous day’s blog as we had internet service again. That’s why yesterdays entry came late. Today’s is late because I sat out in the sun too long and went to bed early feeling feverish. I missed the tropical weather apparently and enjoyed too much all at once.
Herself came back with a cabbage and carrots a mango and tamales and I don’t remember what else for seven bucks and all the activated memories of the fun of shopping in the local markets in Mexico.
We drove on until we got to the approved iOverlander stop at a gas station. Truck parking in back, clean bathrooms and a convenience store and restrooms. What else does a traveler need?
These places are easy and free and convenient but they aren’t any more pretty than they are in the US. The food is good though and filling. We ate for four bucks. My wife took a flattering picture of The Author At Lunch.
I cannot deny I was regretting introducing my wife to the iOverlander app as she was now ferociously looking up campsites along the coast. My suggestion of a wild camp at a side beach at Tenacatita Bay was swept aside by a sumptuous description of a small campground at Punta Perula some thirty miles north.
I’ll give you one guess who won that debate?
$17:50 a night and we got a waterfront spot in this tiny park thanks to a low hanging wire that puts less intrepid campers off taking this prime spot.
The nice lady in charge used a kayak paddle to lift the wire and in we snuck. Perfect! We went for a swim and the water was warm especially after our cooler experiences up north. I love the coconut palms that at last remind me of the Keys ( and I don’t have to trim clean and pick up after them!). A neighbor came by and introduced herself from Michigan and invited us to a dinner they hold every week in town as a local fund raiser. We were set.
She even solved a slight bit of stupidity on our part. We had arrived with only $75 in pesos. We had been reluctant to hunt for a bank ATM in Puerto Vallarta in the chaos so, experienced travelers that we are we set off into the mountains and this underpopulated coast with little cash. Brilliant! The lady from
Michigan even changed a hundred bucks for us to extricate us from our derangement. Pretty nice.
We were set. Then our neighbor, a nurse, came back by with some bad news. The French Canadian woman in the van two spaces away was in bed with Covid. Two other anti- vaxxers from Canada also have Covid. We canceled our participation in the dinner and got to thinking.
We had to make a rational decision and set our anger and irritation aside. We are self contained so we can live apart in this splendid spot for a couple of days at least. We were actually talking about staying a week if our friend Ron shows up in a couple of days with more pesos in hand (His comment was that the worst decisions make the best stories as he laughed at our sudden involuntary poverty. He’s dead right!).
At this point I don’t know what we will do. The town of Punta Perula needs to be explored as it looks interesting. The idea of staying here and having a community of businesses and restaurants at hand is so appealing. But there is the big but.
We have avoided Covid for two long years. It would be a shame to end that winning streak now. Especially with Layne’s immune issues.