written by Conor Riley
The day started like any other, a beautiful sunrise, a cup of coffee, and a clean bathing suit fresh off the lifelines. I took the bus out to La Cruz to meet up with friends for a day of surfing. Of course this was the wrong place to meet them, but after catching up with other friends I ended up where I needed to be, way out at Punta Mita, for a surf session with SV Starship.
SV Starship is a sistership to Moondance and it was very cool to see how Chris and Ann Marie have set up their boat. (their blog http://blog.sv-starship.com/) They have very cool systems, and make a mean hotdog. After lunch and boat talk we set out to surf the near by break La Lancha.
The waves were a little on the soft side, but we all seemed to catch a fair number of waves. Between the three of us, we each tried a few different board combinations. The people in the line up were really nice and every one was kind of looking out for each other, cheering when people caught or almost caught a wave in the marshmallow conditions.
After surfing, SV Velella Velella invited us to a little bonfire on the beach with a few other boats in the anchorage. It was fun to catch up and just relax on the beach after a long day of surfing.
I still had to grab a bus back to Nuevo Vallarta, so I left the bonfire around 8:30 and walked through the small town and shore side restaurants up the gentle slope to the freeway. Once there I joined a crowd of very tired locals all ready to get home, and looking very nervous.
I wasn’t worried, I never have really thought that the buses followed much of a schedule and it usually was just a matter of hanging out till one came along. As I was waiting I noticed that the crowd had dispersed and most were hopping into the back of pick up trucks, or on cell phones. Uh-oh. I thought maybe I could find a slightly better bus waiting spot and walked a little further up the road. No people, and after waiting there for a while, still no bus.
I figured I might have to take a cab and did a loop through the town. As I walked through the town the restaurants were closing down, but it looked like the bars might stay open and there were a few cab drivers playing cards, so I felt like if I had to take a cab I could.
Now to people who may not know the area a cab ride from Punta Mita to Nuevo Vallarta is a lot of money. About as much as a big shopping trip to Wal-Mart or the Mega. So I didn’t want to just hop in a cab when a bus might be coming up the road any moment. I figured I’d give it until about ten o’clock and if a bus didn’t come, I’d bite the bullet and take a cab.
I took a different way up to the freeway, so I could see a little more of the road and waited patiently for a bus to come. I started walking down the freeway towards the OXXO (a store like 7-11) trying not to be blinded by the bright light of the oncoming traffic and staying well off the freeway.
Suddenly I was in the air.
It is weird to be completely airborne with no warning. My first thought was, “I am about to be seriously injured.” I tried to remember various body parts in Spanish. I landed with a thud on dry soft ground in some sort of hole. After being blinded by the lights of the traffic I could not see anything. Even on my tippy toes I still couldn’t see out of this weird hole. My eyes started to adjust and I realised I was in a drainage ditch. I climbed out of it, but not before stepping in something I could only hope was water.
Battered and bruised I made the executive decision that a cab ride to the shower back in Nuevo Vallarta was now the plan.
I made my way slowly down to the row of restaurants, now they were completely closed and the cab stand empty. Double Uh-oh! With no cabs around, and the town shut down for the night I trudged back up to the freeway, back to the OXXO, and crossed my fingers for a bus.
Not two minutes later a bus slowly rolls up and lets off a few passengers. I’m saved! I confidently wave at the driver, who then waves me off. What? The bus slowly makes its way down town the driver gets out for a second then turns the bus back toward the freeway and parks it on the side of the road near a certain drainage ditch I became very familiar with.
Now I started feeling pretty good, it is not uncommon for drivers to stop in the middle of their route and have a snack, or take a break. I mean the bus was there, and it would be going back to Puerto Vallarta. It was just a matter of time. So I hunkered down and looked at the stars, looked at the moon, and enjoyed the night sky. On thing true of any sailor, we know how to pass the long hours of the night. It wasn’t till Orion slipped over the horizon that I realized this bus driver was taking a long break. I walked over to the bus and careful to avoid any unseen pits, tried to see if the driver was still around.
A local walking along the freeway, asked me what I was doing and then went on to explain that the bus parks here for the night to save a trip in the morning. That there were no more busses, and I should just ask some one for a ride, but be careful.
Just to remind you, I am in wet black board shorts and a black hooded sweatshirt with splotches of mud over both, and blood and mud on my legs and hands. I don’t think I’d be much of a target. But I thanked him for the words of warning none the less.
In a last-ditch effort I went to the St. Regis guard house and asked if they could call me a cab. They tried but no one would pick up, and they said once the cab stand closes that’s it for cabs in Punta Mita. They said I could take a St. Regis cab, but it would cost 100 dollars US. I would rather sleep on the beach or get a hotel room, and take the bus in the morning than do that. I have to say the guards were very nice and did not seem to mind at all that this dirty gringo was hanging out.
It was getting late and the wait staff was going home. The St. Regis vans ferry the employees back to wherever they live. One guard flagged a van down and made my case to the driver. Every seat in the van was already taken by tired workers wanting to get home, and the driver was worried he might get in trouble. So no dice.
After a few more attempts were made, I finally connected with Jerry. He was seeing a movie in Nuevo Vallarta and lived near by. He drove me the whole way and we had quite a good time talking mostly about food, then his desire to go to Paris and Cuba. He was very proud to be working in the best reviewed restaurant in Mexico. He said he was learning from this so he could open his own restaurant one day. An Italian themed place that was a coffee bar in the morning and a dance club at night. He could not have been a nicer guy and by the end of the trip we had made plans to go sailing.
I am always amazed at how easy it is to make new friends. With just a little Spanish and a lot of finger pointing and laughing there is no shortage of things to talk about. Maybe its the culture down here, maybe its the cruising atmosphere, but it seems so effortless to make connections with very different people.
- If you are going to stay somewhere late, just commit to staying the night.
- If you are walking anywhere in the dark, be careful!
- If you need help, ask. People are friendly and probably will point you the right way.
- If you are going to talk to people speak Spanish first. That is unusual among gringos and much appreciated.
- Remember that you are really just 7 hours early for the next bus.