Back Roads of Nayarit: True Adventures in Paradise: Platanitos, Crocodiles, etc. (Part 1)

We were sitting around the front room having happy hour with our Bed and Breakfast guests, Dave and Lenore Boroughs, and talking about having an adventure. It was decided that we would drop over and see Turtle Beach, since neither of us had been there for a few years. Turned out we found a couple of new things, like a very needy group of Huicholes and a crocodile farm we didn’t know about. Here it is.

Editor’s Note: “Back Roads of Nayarit” is a series of essays written by Bob Howell, a long-time resident of Jaltemba Bay. We are sharing his stories in an effort to preserve Bob’s memory – and to help Bob’s partner and traveling companion, Vicky Flores Ramirez, who still lives in La Peñita and quietly carries on the work that she and Bob so loved. You can learn more below. 

It is another beautiful day in paradise. It is 8:45 a.m. The jeep is loaded with the four of us, lunches and food and clothing for the poor. We head out through La Peñita, where they are still working on the road; it has been two years now. This is supposed to go through to Tepic and I fully expect it to be finished during my grand children’s or maybe my great grandchildren’s life.

01 - The explorers in paradise
The explorers in paradise: Bob, Vicky, Lenore and Dave the adventurers on this trip. They encounter a remote beach community, a destroyed turtle hatchery, crocodiles, a needy group of Huichol Indians and more.

The countryside is green, the mangoes are getting larger, they should be starting to ripen in late May or early June. We see smoke back in the mountains. This means more rain forests going down the tube. If they keep this up, the day will be seen when there are no more in Nayarit. I read somewhere that at the current rate all will be gone in México within 50 years. During my 6 years here in Rincón de Guayabitos I keep seeing them going and going. Oh, well, civilization, I guess that is progress.

We pass Puerto de la Lima and I note the kilometers to read 295. The tobacco is starting to ripen and all the fields look good even though it is getting toward the dry season. We pass the cut off to Chacala and the many fruit stands. They sell so many nice things. A shame that few gringos stop. Mostly they don’t know what the little packages contain. Many types of fruit and coconut candies. Banana pastries. Honey, fruits and melons.

Arriving in Las Varas, we turn left at the traffic light and go in the direction of Zacualpán, our first stop where we will gas up and visit the outdoor museum. Kilometers are 306. We pass through many more pretty fields of sorgum, tobacco, beans, squash, watermelons, mangoes and other fruits.

We enter Zacualpán at 9:16 and the kilometers are 314.

As we enter we see a lot of very poor looking children under a shed so we pull over. There are about 18 young children, including several babies. There is one woman looking after them. There is a small wood fire and one small pot with some beans cooking. They are Huichol Indians. The older children and parents are out gathering chiles for a packing shed. They will not return until about dark. There is no food in sight except for the small pot of beans. The shed roof was partially blown off by the hurricane and they have tried to make small shelters with pieces of plastic. There is no water and they look hungry and dirty. It is obvious that this is day to day living for them. Vicky brings out the store of rice, beans and sugar that we have aboard. We pass out candy and promise to stop by on our return trip. We snap a few photos and we are on our way.

02 - A needy group of Huichol Indians
A needy group of Huichol Indians: We notice a group of young Huicholes with one woman in charge. They are living under an abandoned shed that had part of the roof missing.

03 - Vicky and her friends
Vicky and her friends: Little food was in sight and times are hard for these little one. Those nine and older were out picking chiles with the adults.

04 - This is home for 58 people
This is home for 58 people: 40 adults (all after age nine were considered adults and work in the field) and 18 children, including babies live here.

05 - Vicky gives a helping hand
Vicky gives a helping hand: Vicky packs something for everyone when we make these trips. Clothing, food, such as rice, beans and sugar, a few toys and candy. 

06 - Look at these smiling faces
Look at these smiling faces: The Huicholes are a proud people that live in remote mountain village, far from modern civilizations. They only come down now and then to sell their handicrafts and earn a little money before returning. These folks are contracted for 3 months to pick chiles.

07 - What is it, when she receives a piece of candy
What is it, when she receives a piece of candy: Basic needs are in short supply and luxuries, such as this, are rare.

Zacualpán is a busy little farm town and we pit stop for gas and make our way to the museum, passing by the large plaza and surrounding church and government buildings, which look neat and colonial. There are found a number of rocks and stones with symbols and carvings. Some elaborate some simple. Some date back over 4000 years ago. Dinosaurs were found in these parts and evidence of hunters. The Aztecs were fairly newcomers here. After looking through the little outdoor museum, made colorful by the many flowers and roses, we reboard the jeep and get on the road again.

08 - An outdoor petroglyph museum
An outdoor petroglyph museum: This museum is located in Zacualpán, Nayarit, México. A little hard to find. There are a number of writings and symbols. What do all of these symbols or drawings mean? Up to 4000 years old, many historians differ as to the use or meanings. We will never know.

10 - This looks similar to Aztec and Mayan work
This looks similar to Aztec and Mayan work: Yet the Mayans were far to the South and the Aztecs never did settle this part of the country. The nearest serious outpost being Aztlán del Río, a couple of hour’s drive from here.

11 - What were these used for.
What were these used for? There used to be a number of these here but people have hauled them off. They look like a round ball cut in half. They had no metal tools, only obsidian. How did they do this?

Entering in San Ysidro, we stop at a small fruit stand on the right. They have maps of the coast near Turtle Beach and the development which has been slowly going in during the past few years. On we go, passing through Ixtapa. It is kilometer 323. We see the high mountains off to our right, which is Le Cumbre and El Malinal. Places where our coffee comes from. As most of our readers know, we get a lot of our coffee directly from the plantations in the mountains. We roast the green beans and grind them fresh daily. Each of these little villages have topes (speed bumps) so watch out! The country is changing and it is dry scrub trees. Not very hospitable looking and the ground does not look fertile. This used to be beautiful rain forest.

Reaching the turnoff to Turtle Beach, we turn left. It is 10:18 and the kilometers are 329. There is a large sign here so you can’t miss this one.

We pass through many newly planted mango groves and planted fields. The road curves and there is a sign that says 6.5 kilometers to Playa Las Tortugas. It is kilometer 333 and the planted fields give way to scrub brush and coconut palms can be seen in the distance. We soon arrive in a coconut grove that stretches as far as the eye can see to the south and the point of Punta Custodio to the north.

12 - A long deserted beach
A long deserted beach: The beach runs for many miles between Punta Custodio and Boca de Chila, the old pirate lair.

13 - Coconut trees line much of the beach
Coconut trees line much of the beach: The beach is deserted for many miles. If I had balloon tires on my jeep I could drive all the way to the treasure cove at Boca de Chila. This is an area we hope to explore soon.

15 - An estuary behind the beach
An estuary behind the beach: This estuary separates the old turtle hatchery from Punta Custodio and the nearby highway. Ecologists have not permitted a bridge and easy access. Good for them.

We soon arrive at the development. About a half dozen very nice homes. Nicely landscaped, a couple very elaborate. Passing through the home area we come to the end of the road and park. The beach is in front of us and there is a large estuary on the right. The beach is long and beautiful. If I only had balloon tires on the jeep I think I could drive all of the way to Boca de Chila (I have a story about this place and the pirate treasure). There are a couple of wrecked buildings, downed power poles and much evidence of damage by Hurricane Kenna back in October of 2002. A turtle hatchery was here. Because the green turtle is, or was on the endangered list, eggs were gathered and brought here to escape poachers, who would gather and sell them, although illegal. Thousands were here and they, along with the buildings that housed them, were destroyed. Hopefully the program will be restarted before the summer season starts again.

16 - Beautiful homes at Turtle Beach
Beautiful homes at Turtle Beach: Six homes have been built during the last several years. The nearby turtle hatchery containing thousands of turtle eggs was destroyed by hurricane Kenna. It is a long hard drive over a rough road or a short boat ride from the fishing village at Platanitos, to get to Turtle Beach. This still leaves you a long way to the nearest town. Like solitud? This is it.

18 - Driving through the coconut groves
Driving through the coconut groves: Thousands of coconuts. Many lying on the ground. There is a popular drink called tuba. We used to make it out in the islands. Put a little fruit down the eyes and plug it. When the plug blows off instant booze.

19 - A nice pool almost on the beach
A nice pool almost on the beach: The home owners association pool. Complete with palapa and facilities. Watch the sunset while relaxing in the warm waters of this pool. Maybe have a margarita too.

We talk briefly with a home owner who tells us that a new phase of the development has started and more homes will be built. A nice place to get away from it all. It looks like something you would find in the south seas. An unspoiled paradise. Although just across the channel from Platanitos, and the highway, you must go all the way around because the ecologists will not permit the mouth of the estuary to be bridged. Hooray for them.

Stay tuned for Part 2 in the next issue of our newsletter.

by Bob Howell
Originally published April 2003 on La Peñita Folk

Back Roads of Nayarit” is a series of essays written by Bob Howell, a long-time resident of Jaltemba Bay. The series details his day trips and adventures between 2001-2007. We are sharing these stories in an effort to preserve Bob’s memory – and to help Bob’s partner and traveling companion, Vicky Flores Ramirez, who still lives in La Peñita and quietly carries on the work that she and Bob so loved. Sometimes her bodega is packed full of donated clothing, school supplies, toys and medicine; sometimes it is bare. If you enjoy reading these articles, please consider making a donation so the McKibben Foundation (Nurse Vicky’s Dispensary) can continue helping schools, seniors and needy families in the Jaltemba Bay area. And if you have copies of any of Bob’s old stories or photos, please contact us.

Click here to read Tom Plattenberger’s personal dedication entitled “In Memory of Bob Howell” which serves as an introduction to this series.

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4 Reviews on “Back Roads of Nayarit: True Adventures in Paradise: Platanitos, Crocodiles, etc. (Part 1)”

  1. :

    HI THERE ALISON- Is it possible to just print the story without the photos, as I have some land with the story blocking my access--and would like the details of the journey, just not the lovely photos.

    1. :

      Karol Jo, you could copy and paste it into a Word doc or email and then print it.

  2. :

    This story and pictures seem very old. It looks like the original publish date was in 2003. I have lived at PLT since 2008, and the turtle program is vibrant and eggs from over 3000 nests are collected each year, and over a quarter of a million babies released. There are 15 homes in the development. The beach is still as pristine and beautiful.

    1. :

      Suzanne, this entire series of articles and photos were originally published between 2001-2007. We are republishing them to help raise funds and donated items for Nurse Vicky's project... and to document them for future readers.

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