Back Roads of Nayarit: Trip to Punta Raza

It’s another beautiful day in paradise. That being Rincón de Guayabitos, in the state of Nayarit, Mexico. My traveling companion Vicky, and I, have decided to check out an area that is not all that far from Guayabitos. Although I have been there numerous times, I have never made a thorough exploration. This is also a place is known by only a few gringos. Vicky thinks that this is unfair because it is near and very beautiful. Sooo… 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 about 12 a.m. and we set out in our trusty jeep, a 1985 CJ7. Slightly modified to suit our needs, it will take us just about anywhere. We enter the highway at Guayabitos and head south. Today our goal is to check out the long sandy beach and rocky outcroppings of Punta Raza, including an estuary and an inland valley. The area is uninhabited except for two small ranchitos in the valley. We travel south for a few minutes and turn into the pueblo of El Monteón. This is basically a farm town. We pass a school and a football field on the left and enter the town proper. There are a few small stores, a poor church and one motel on the main street. Not too much here. They have a cock fight arena on the edge of town, which is used now and then. There used to be a few cantinas until the women got together and had them closed because the men were spending too much time and money. Now the men may be seen in small groups here and there nursing their cervezas or ?. The main street is cobblestone and there are a few for sale signs. We stop at one of the larger stores, not much bigger than a bedroom, and buy a couple of extra batteries for the camera and tape recorder and also to chat with the owner. Then off we go. Almost at the far end of town we turn right. We are now on a dirt road and soon cross a creek bed. Dry now but what happens when it rains? Although last night we had a lot of rain. Figure that one out. Where did the water go?

Punta Raza 4

Going up the other side we are in a pretty countryside. A few cows, a couple of farms and everything is green, almost a canopy overhead. There is the mountain that we have to go over and the road becomes steep. Lots of palms. It is a jungle on the hillside. What a view off to our left. The wide green valley. It looks like we could reach out and touch it. All of the little farms, a couple of villages, many pineapple fields and several mango groves. Nice! There are a lot of those old tall palms with the little coconuts on our hillside. Years ago these palms covered both the valleys and hills. They created a large part of the rain forest. Today there are not too many and it is hard to find medium size trees, but not here. Maybe nature is returning a little. This used to be a big industry that was developed by the Spanish. These little nuts come in very large clusters. They were used as cooking oil. They are very high in cholesterol and with the development of vegetable oil the industry took a dive. For the most part being replaced by coffee, although a limited amount is still used for cosmetics and suntan oils. Now the road is rougher and steeper, I drop into 2nd gear. It is really a jungle now. We can only glimpse the valley now and then. The mountain top is finally reached and we pause a few minutes to enjoy this wonderful view of the valley. I feel that I can almost touch the little village below. We are starting down. It is very steep and I drop to 1st gear. The jungle almost closes in on us. Strangler figs, choking off the tall palms. It’s interesting to note that these strangler figs normally start from seeds far up in the tree, left by the wind or birds, who knows. They work their way to the ground as vines and then become trees themselves, finally strangling and killing the palm and then die themselves. Self destruction. This jungle canopy must be all of 80 feet high.

We finally reach the bottom where is located a neat little outpost in the middle of nowhere. Here we have a couple of miles of uninhabited sandy beach, some rocky outcroppings and the blue Pacific. Just above there is a small restaurant and a few rustic rooms that can be rented. The owner lives in a small castle like structure and has a little restaurant that serves vegetarian dishes, quesadillas and fish. Sodas and beer to drink. You can sit and relax outside under a long palapa (a palapa is a palm thatched building or house) which has the greatest view. Sometimes I come here and just meditate. Often thinking what if I had done this or that in my past life instead of whatever. Or just thinking how lucky I am that I can sit and enjoy this beautiful place. There is a spring above that provides cool clear water. There is no electric, no telephone, and no traffic. The beach is normally deserted, as is this little paradise, except on holidays. Now and then I see swimmers below and oyster divers, so I guess it is safe to swim. Sometimes I see a couple or two on the weekends. I think if it was for sale I would be a buyer.

Punta Raza 1

Part 2 – We have just gone over the mountain from El Monteón, dropped down almost to the sea and are in front of a pretty little oasis in the middle of the jungle. A small settlement including a restaurant and room rentals with one of the most beautiful views on the coast.

For some reason the gate is closed and no one is about, so we continue on. One of the things that I like about Mexico is that if the owner of a business decides to take the day off – no problem. Just close the doors and who cares. Now we see a couple of swimmers down the beach, but nothing else. It is just beautiful. The road takes off into the jungle like forest. We come to a pretty little area with a couple of old buildings. We park and break out some refreshments, which naturally include the fresh roasted, fresh ground arabica coffee from our Nayarit mountains. Wandering around we find a lot of interesting old structures and many different kinds of fruit trees. Mangoes, avocado, citrus, etc. Later I learn that this was a government field experimental station which planted many types of fruit trees and then was abandoned. The mountain rises just behind and there are huge shade trees and tall palms. The beach is about a hundred yards away through the jungle.

After our break, we hop aboard and continue on our way. We find a fellow cutting palms for a palapa and we stop and chat. We get a little history of the area and off we go. We notice that the low mountain drops back, allowing a large half valley. There is a mango grove. Just beyond we enter a coconut grove. These are older trees and all are very tall. Leaving the grove we note a small palapa some distance to our right. We follow a short road to a gated fence near the palapa but no one is about. We return to the main road (if you want to call it that) and continue. Soon we enter a real jungle. The overhead is a pure canopy. The small palms and foliage brush both sides of the jeep. It is closing in on us. We continue only because I have been here before. I know that it will eventually come out on the beach at Punta Raza, and so it does. Before reaching the beach we note a number of almost wild pigs. All sizes.

Finally breaking out into the open, we find ourselves on a long sandy beach. There is a fresh water lake, actually an estuary, that comes nearly to the ocean. Just beyond are old lava flows entering into the sea. Waves are crashing onto the flow with some following up the cracks and creating small water spouts. We walk beyond the first lava flow and there is another beach, ending in another lava flow. Many tide pools. This repeats itself for a couple of more beaches. There are small fish and crabs in the pools. Many, many small things on the beach, washed up from who knows where. A beach combers paradise. Few people ever come here. I see a 5 gallon plastic fuel can which has the initials USMC. United States Marine Corps. Once a Marine always a Marine, and I visualize myself back at Camp Pendleton and on a landing exercise. Maybe this has washed down from there. Vicky and I promise each other that we will come back someday and hike as far as we can.

We walk back to the jeep and retrace our way through the jungle. We couldn’t see how far the lake went back, so we take a side trail and make our way through a wide cleared area to northern edge of the valley and finally arrive at the estuary, or lagoon. There are a lot of large trees and half in and out of the water is a ponga (small boat). It has a lot of water in it and there are several poles for pushing through the shallows. It looks unused. We look around, hoping to glimpse a crocodile or two, which we understand abound here, but we see none. Returning to the jeep, we head back, deciding to check out a small almost hidden road not far from the old nursery. We enter the road and soon we see a small palapa. There is an older man and a lot of kids. We chat awhile and he tells us that he is 68 years old and works this ranch for a family that lives in Puerto Vallarta. They are very poor and are so far from everything. Vicky gives them a few kilos of rice, beans and sugar. The old gentlemen tells us that their water supply comes from a spring up the mountain and wants to show us. Not wanting to pass up another adventure we accept. We start up a jungle valley following the small black plastic hose that brings the life giving water to these folks. The going is steep but El Señor is running and jumping like a small boy. There are a number of spring fed pools and we finally arrive at the main supply. Here there are pretty rock formations, tropical plants, trees, wow! We rest awhile and then head back down.

We finally reach the jeep and it is 3:15 p.m. Well, we have visited another place on the back roads, we have made new friends and we make a mental note to return another day with more food and some clothing. The weather is turning for the worse. It is starting to thunder and lightning a bit and we decide we had better get over the mountain before it starts raining too hard. We soon arrive at the little Pueblo of El Monteón, then the paved highway and in minutes we are back at my little paradise, Rincón de Guayabitos, after another great day on THE BACK ROADS OF NAYARIT.

by Bob Howell
Originally published in 2001 on La Peñita Folk
Photos by Allyson Williams

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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