Every beach town on our route sounded like paradise as we read about them in our guide. However, after our experiences with San Blas and Chacala, we headed for the more ‘discovered’ town of Sayulita, hoping for a more appealing option. Things were definitely looking up as we drove around Sayulita. We saw people enjoying meals in the outdoor restaurants around the beautiful square, and the beach had more to offer than scrappy looking thatched shelters. We stopped at El Camaron Camping, and were offered $13 USD a night to camp in their parking lot swamp. We opted instead to stay at the very nice Sayulita Trailer Park and Bungalows next door.
Owned by Senor Teese, a friendly, white-haired German with a penchant for suspenders, he justifiably boasted that the place is booked all winter. Teese explained that we arrived in the off season which is full of fierce thunderstorms and terribly hot weather. He was correct on both accounts – our camper turned into a sauna equipped with a thunderstorm sound and light show every night.
Not too much worry on our part, sleepless nights are not so bad when all you have on the agenda for the day is looking for surf and playing a game of chess. Since the waves were only knee high, we planned to leave after two days until we ran into Lilly and Garret, two Doctors of Eastern Medicine from Portland OR. They told us that a group of people were planning to take a boat trip the next morning to a surf spot that faced south which promised larger waves.
The trip started off a fashionable hour and a half late, but was worth the wait. A thirty minute ride along the beautiful coast brought us to La Lancha, a rocky beach with great sized waves for both of us. As the surf turned mushy, Pedro the guide let me use his larger board while he gave Kristin an impromptu surf lesson. We spent that night at Lilly and Garrett’s bungalow eating delicious shrimp ceviche they made from scratch and drinking ballenas of Pacifico beers (ballenas translates to whales, the nickname for the large returnable 1 liter beer bottles.) We did a little surfing at the beach in town the last day, and Kristin traded time on our laptop with Garret and Lilly for an acupuncture session.
We had so much fun hanging out with Lilly and Garret in Sayulita that we decided to meet up with them in Puerto Vallarta. After a quick morning surf session we drove to the Vallarta Sun Hotel. We met the owner Ricardo, who said the hotel was actually closed until next month, but let us, Lilly, and Garret stay anyways. After sweaty nights in our camper, we were excited to stay in a beautiful air conditioned hotel room looking over the ocean and our private pool.
Puerto Vallarta impressed the four of us, as we were expecting a plastic tourist destination full of walled off resorts and Senor Frog’s merchandise shops. We instead found narrow cobblestone streets lined with classic stucco buildings (as an added bonus, the beachside Hooters had gone out of business). We came to a beautiful old church where a nun let out a loud laugh at Lilly trying to ring the bell to mark the hour. After watching the sun set over the ocean during dinner, we walked along the beach.
To our surprise, we came across a large sea turtle heaving itself out of the water towards a spotlight shining down on the beach. As we watched from the shadows, other beach goers started crowding the turtle struggling up the beach, making us clench our teeth each time they lunged out their hands to touch her. Luckily a volunteer naturalist, a lifeguard, and a police officer showed up on the scene to keep people back. The sea turtle was an Olive Ridley, who ended up laying 120 eggs in the nest she made. After covering up the egg-filled hole, she slammed her body onto the ground to pack the nest. Once she returned to the sea, the pingpong ball sized eggs were dug up and relocated to a safe location.
With this human intervention, the odds of the turtles surviving go from 1 in a 1000 to 1 in a 100. Better, but not great odds. We’re continuing to head down the Pacific coast, looking for more beautiful beaches and surfing.