We spent the morning driving through lush, twisting hills on the carratera libra en route to Puerto Vallarta. Again the GPS was telling us we were next to the Pacific, but even a glance of the ocean was rare. As we ventured further south the scenery became more vibrant; roadside markets with fresh frutas y verduras became more abundant; and the pungent aroma of pot became more prevalent.
Today the many tolls of the cuoata didn’t seem so off-putting. Stuck behind oversized tractors, trucks with double loads, and leisurely locals, the three hundred kilometre drive from Mazatlan had taken nearly six hours. What we wouldn’t pay for a passing lane now. Forty kilometres north of the city, thirsty and famished, we took the exit for a town called Sayulita. A dirt road wound past a small, desolate village. Soon enough, the rough road turned to pavement, and the shoulders became lined with greenery.
As we entered the town core, the change in scenery was staggering. Rhythmic Spanish music echoed through the streets, tropical birds called rambunctiously to one another, and stray dogs barked jovially as they played on the cobblestone walkways. We parked the Jeep on the side of the road we came in on and headed for the beach.
As we walked down the road, vendors advertised fresh fruit smoothies and hand-woven bags; hotels with hand-painted tiles and grass roofs posted their nightly rates; and barefaced vagabonds with uneven tan lines and worn clothes headed towards the water. Hints of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and other languages I couldn’t quite make out could be heard in passing conversation. As we basked in the hot sun illuminating the nearby surf, it was clear that we’d found an international tourist haven.
As we marvelled at the perfect scene, Sophie took a great big dump. Scavenging through my purse for a bag, a tall Scandinavian girl affably informed me that they’re all along the beach. From a behind a sun-bleached picket fence separating cottages from the beach, a dark-featured girl with an enviable tan complimented Sophie. I learned that she was from Montreal, but spent half the year here on employment benefits. If the government knew, they would be cut off, but screw them. When I asked if the place was dog-friendly she laughed and gestured around her. All these free-roaming dogs weren’t strays, she explained, this place is just really laid back.