My sister Andie and her boyfriend Ryan came down to visit for a week and while we had considered just letting them wing it, in the end we decided we could maximize their total fun quotient by treating them to our special “Splendour of Real Mexico Tour”, usually reserved for visiting royalty and sharp-tongued hobos.
It’s the ultimate small town Pacific Coast adventure – 6 days and 7 nights getting down and dirty in authentic Mexico. Pack your swimsuit and some padded shorts and get ready to enjoy a week of spectacular beaches, ocean-front bars and somewhat lethargic bulls (both live and mechanical).
You arrive at Gustavo Diaz Ordaz airport in Puerto Vallarta where you will be met by one of our vivacious representatives who, if all goes as planned, will be grinning overzealously. You will then receive a complementary one-armed hug and directions to the nearest ATM. Parking fees will be split proportionally based on body weight after which you will enjoy an authentic Mexican ride up to La Penita de Jaltemba complete with inexplicable lane changes, random military checkpoints and heart-racing blind corner highway passing. Don’t forget your backseat driver’s cap!
After a hearty breakfast where you can choose between two completely different varieties of heavily sugared cereals you’ll spend the morning swimming in the pool, soaking up some sun and lying on the wonderfully flat cement floor (no towels provided). Bring your own sunscreen, although we don’t recommend using it until you have a nice pink base to build on. A lunch of ham sandwiches, fruit and strangely small oreos will have you crying “Viva la Mexico!” and provide you with all the energy you’ll need for an afternoon of boogie boarding and frisbee. You’ll soon learn how to learn to time the waves perfectly, soaring along the top only briefly before falling hard with the curl, smashing your face on the board and tumbling head over heels through the churning, sandy froth. Exhilarating!
After a long, relaxing day of reading romance novels and peeing frequently we head to the vibrant town square for the start of the Carnival celebrations. You’ll be surrounded by excitement, camaraderie and plenty of homemade rum as the local parade shuffles past in an ungainly fashion. Young girls in tiaras, anonymous men on horseback and cars with people sitting in them – this parade has it all! Then it’s on to the bull riding…mechanical, that is! There may not be horns, or a head, or legs or a tail, or padding, and only a rough piece of re-bar to hang on to, but other than that you’ll swear you just joined the PBR circuit. Although this might actually be better – no gay clowns.
Because those will be at our next stop – El Rodeo! Join hundreds of thrilled revelers drinking, singing and doing the rumba in the back row with girls in tight jeans and plenty of “junk in the trunk”. But don’t let that distract you from the action in the ring where a couple dozen hombres stagger around hooting exuberantly and kicking the empty beer cans raining down from the appreciative crowd. The determined bull-riders are unfazed, though, clinging to the back of confused steers as they meander apathetically through the crowd of boozy interlopers until eventually getting tired and refusing to move. Who knows, maybe they just want to stop and listen to the lively band, all dressed in matching pink button-downs and well-supplied with trumpets. Three hours – and no less than two bull rides – later you finally call it a night, enjoying an atmospheric walk back to the hotel as fireworks explode all around, sulfur pellets raining down hot and delightful.
Another day lounging by the pool, soaking up all the UV rays Mexico’s tattered ozone will allow. But don’t get too comfortable because when the clock strikes 3 pm….Beach Bar Pub Crawl! Pack your stretchiest beer drinking bladder and leave your turtlenecks at home because you’ll be spending the next 8 hours strolling from beach bar to beach bar, each time choosing from a dizzying array of Pacifico or Corona.
Your toes will be caressed by the warm sand as you pass group after group of Mexican children digging random holes, outfitted smartly in small blue underwear and muddy wife-beaters, yet another magnificent Aztec tradition. Large children shoving smaller children’s faces into the sand may not be an Aztec tradition but is delightful nonetheless.
Then just when you start thinking that your head is feeling, like, way lighter and it seems like you have to pee all the time, even though you just went, you’ll be distracted by the incredible Pacific sunset in all its glory, bathing the picturesque landscape in a soft orange glow – orange waves, orange pelicans circling the orange fishing boat and authentic Mexican trash lying in orange heaps around abandoned clusters of sand holes.
And it’s when the sun goes down that the action really starts! Prepare yourself for some big city night life in Rincon de Guayabitos, wandering from bar to bar along its so-called “street”. When it’s finally time to call it a night you’ll all squeeze into a tiny cab, talking and laughing obnoxiously all the way back to La Penita. There you will cap off the night with your choice of either passing out on the bed in all your clothes or struggling halfway through one last beer while you send a rambling, nonsensical email home to your small children.
Today we’ll focus on recovering from the pub crawl. You’ll drink plenty of water, take lots of naps and peruse your digital photos, using the timestamps to piece together the events of the previous evening. Whoa! Whose penis is that?
After days of gazing at it longingly offshore the time has finally come – we’re off to Misery Island! Don’t be fooled into thinking the name is meant to be ironic, though. Nope, this island is the real deal. Once you’ve finished haggling poorly for a boat ride to the island it’s a quick ten minute jaunt across the calm bay with great views of Guayabitos beach the whole time. You’ll pass charming old shrimp boats as you approach a picturesque spit of sand hemmed in on three sides by high rocky cliffs. Don’t forget, though, this is the “Real Mexico” tour, so the postcard ends there.
You are dropped off and left to fend for yourself, winding your way through the crowds of Mexican families well-provisioned with food and beach toys, and groups of foreigners who are have stocked mainly large coolers of alcohol. Once you find an open spot and settle in on the tightly packed, somewhat muddy, sand you’ll enjoy between 30 and 60 seconds of unadulterated comfort before being joined by Misery Island’s most populous inhabitant – the Shifty Red Ant. Hordes of them will swarm your towel, tickling and massaging your weary muscles and burnt, sensitive skin. You’ll find the afternoon simply flying by as you flick them aside one by one, watching in amazement as they trundle back, wholly unfazed by what you would expect to be a debilitating level of violence for such a small creature. No sir, these Mexican ants are tougher than a $4 steak in a Chinese restaurant.
You adventurous types can try your hand at snorkeling, carefully maneuvering through the spunky waves that coyly attempt to push you up against the barnacled rocks. Once safely into deeper, murkier waters you can swim freely in and around all the boats coming, going and waiting to take people back to the mainland. In brief interludes between boats you can peek underwater where every now and then there will actually be something visible amid the sandy swirling currents. In these invigorating moments you’ll gaze upon as many as 6 to 8 fish shyly circling the broken grey coral which is scarred and dying after years of being battered by boat hulls and metal anchors…another ancient Mexican tradition. You’ll feel like part of history itself.
No need to worry about aggravating that pesky sunburn, either, because Misery Island’s tall cliffs and small beach ensure the sun is completely gone by 3:30 pm. Those mainlanders can keep their touristy sunsets and functioning ocean-front bars while you kick back among the ants and dogs, shivering and goose-bumpy. Soon after that the buzzards roll in, keeping an eye out for stragglers as they circle eagerly above. Careful – I think that big one has his eye on you!
And don’t forget to take home a piece of Misery Island while you still can. With many families taking home two-litre bottles of coral and dragging away huge, unwieldy sacks of beach sand, this little slice of heaven won’t be around forever.
Naturally we save the best for last, heading to Playa Chacala for a full day of fun and sun on the nicest beach on the Riviera Nayarit. You’ll eat, drink, read and produce excess fat cells all day long.
As the waves pick up later in the day you’ll be able to pick up where you left previously, doing your very best to master the delicate art of being brutally manhandled by waves as they mercilessly grind sand into all your best orifices. Ever dreamed of being a sexual assault dummy? Now’s your chance!
As the day sadly winds to a close we will head back to town where even a shower won’t keep you from discovering sand in your crotch hours later, or maybe even having water spontaneously pour out of your sinus cavity when you bend over to put your hair in a towel. Isn’t nature awe-inspiring?
Finally, on your last night in town you’ll enjoy dinner with a panoramic sunset view at a restaurant high above Los Ayala and Guayabitos. Then it’s back to the carnival in La Penita where you’ll meet a gay cowboy and hear his riveting story about not having enough money to make it back to California.
Let’s hope he doesn’t just use your ten pesos to buy doobs! And, of course, what trip would be complete without a ride on a giant merry-go-round rooster? Set your childhood trauma aside and forget about how small the seat is because, let’s face it, nothing says Mexico like spending a five wonderful minutes grinning ear to ear while you ride a giant Mexican cock!
Adios, amigos. You may be going home, but rest easy knowing that you’ve left behind a trail of joy and merriment, along with a box of Kraft Dinner. See you again next year!