While staying in our hotel in Guayabitos, we were lucky to get to know one of the staff members. Juan was a likeable and helpful Mexican that had lived in California for several years. He said he liked to practice his English and we enjoyed learning more about this area and his life.
One day he told us he was going to borrow his uncle’s Jeep and travel up into the nearby mountains to visit a relative and would we like to come along. Without hesitation, Jack and I jumped at the chance. Several of our friends warned us that we were “crazy” to go off into the wilderness with a Mexican stranger. We had no hesitation and ignored their warnings. A few days later, Juan arrived with the Jeep and off we went. It was not long before we were deep into the jungle on very rough dirt roads heading up into the coastal mountains. As we traveled, Juan told us about his life in California and then about growing up in this area. Listening to his stories of how he and his family hiked for days in the mountains when they were growing up were fascinating.
We passed few vehicles on our way through these mountains and eventually came to a very small gathering of houses. One of the buildings looked like a store but only because it had a few scruffy advertising signs on the front of it. We were curious to see inside and used the opportunity to purchase a few cold drinks. There were very few items in the store, but I’m sure the locals appreciated what choices they had. There were less than a dozen buildings in the area and an unusual sight was a classic Chevy pick-up truck parked under a makeshift roof. It appeared to be someone’s restoration project that was a work in progress.
Around the corner on the dirt road was a modest house that Juan approached and called out his cousin’s name. Out sauntered his cousin with a big smile and we were introduced to Manuel. They chatted in Spanish and we stood there for a few moments to be polite. Jack and I soon wandered off to check out this little interesting village while the two cousins laughed and conversed. A partially finished adobe mud hut stood abandoned on one side of the street and a pickup stopped on the road while the driver chatted to a man on a horse. Children nearby played and yelled in a yard while a car stereo blasted out a lively Mexican tune.
Juan indicated that the visit was over and we should head off to explore more of the area. Traveling along the rugged mountain roads, Juan pointed out trees and plants we had never seen and were curious about. Now and again another modest small farm would appear with road chickens scattering like balloons in a windstorm as we rattled through the jungle.
Eventually we came upon a graveyard that was surprisingly big for such a sparsely populated area. My guess was that people have been living and dying here for a long time. I asked if it was permissible to stop and look around the graveyard. We marveled at the variety of different grave markers from simple tree limbs with a name and date carved on them to some elaborate decorative shrines with glass doors and polished stone.
Off we rumbled through the thick vine-entangled jungle and punishing roads until we eventually came to some larger towns with fertile farmlands and more elaborately decorated homes. Eventually we were back to the main highway and off to visit Sayulita, the vibrant town known for young surfers, talented artists and many tourists. After our visit, it was back to Guayabitos.
Next stop was at the house Juan was building on his own. He was proud of the modest home and showed us future rooms and some of the special features he had incorporated. It made me pause to think of how much we had back home and how little he had in comparison. I also kept in mind that there is no guarantee our way of life makes us any happier.
We arrived at the local car wash where Juan was considerate enough to make sure he returned the Jeep washed and cleaned inside after our dusty adventure. We offered to pay for gas and some extra pesos for the use of his uncle’s Jeep which Juan appreciated.
The trip was an unexpected bonus for us and even though it happened a few years ago, Jack and I still talk about how much fun it was. It was such a privilege for us to be treated as friends and to learn more about the local people and where they live and work. How fortunate we are to find a beautiful country with such friendly and hospitable people. The love affair with Mexico continues.
by Brian Betts
This story was written by one of our part-time contributors. To learn more about the author/photographer, click on the “Contributors” tab near the top of the page. If you want to join in and share information, stories and photos of Jaltemba Bay, Mexico, please email them to Allyson@JaltembaBayLife.com